Moving City Hall to North Surrey was not a new idea. It had been talked about for many years. In 2007, the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association (DSBIA) was determined to make it happen. Advocacy efforts began.
During the 2008 Municipal Election, the DSBIA posed the following question to all the candidates “Are you willing to go on record as supporting the relocation of City Hall to Downtown Surrey?”
The majority of candidates did support it.
“Absolutely. City Hall should have been relocated to our city centre 18 years ago in 1991, when Ray Spaxman first presented his plan for building a strong downtown core in Surrey.” (Stephanie Ryan)
“I am on record as supporting the relocation of city hall to downtown Surrey as a demonstration of our faith in the current and future success of our downtown core. I would go further and work towards having a new library, performing arts centre and a new museum as part of a new municipal complex downtown.” (Barinder Rasode)
Even candidates that didn’t support it, did.
“No. I need to see all the costs and benefits, although I definitely support a City Centre City Hall.” (Gary Robinson)
Why did the DSBIA support the move of City Hall?
For many years, the focus of City Hall staff and politicians seemed to be on other areas of Surrey. While other town centres thrived, Whalley was stagnant. The Spaxman Plan, noted above by candidate Stephanie Ryan remained on the shelf
The introduction of Skytrain did not have a positive impact on the area – it made it easier for locals to shop outside of Surrey and brought crime issues to the area. Even the building of Central City Tower and the announcement of “Tech BC” weren’t enough to change the look and feel of the area.
In the early 2000s, Council initiated the Whalley Revitalization Strategy but that seemed like window dressing – sprucing up the old library, adding security to Sunrise Pavilion and renovating portions of the old North Surrey Rec Centre didn’t hit the mark.
The adage that you are only as strong as your weakest link was on everyone’s mind – if people looked negatively on the Whalley area, they would look negatively on Surrey.
What was needed was an investment in the City Centre that would show developers and businesses our City was committed to creating a Downtown Core.
The Council elected in 2008 showed leadership and follow-through in their support of investment in civic infrastructure in City Centre. We have our beautiful new Bing Thom-designed Library and the relocation of City Hall with a public plaza and an 800 stall parking facility is underway.
These projects were not funded by Council raising tax dollars. Nor were they undertaken at the expense of other areas of the City. Council had a fiscally viable plan to use other revenues not already designated for other uses to fund the infrastructure.
New residential and commercial developers have already got plans underway in City Centre. Ultimately, that means additional tax base.
Good leadership focuses on the goal and the goal is a safe, vibrant Downtown – a place to live, work, learn, play and shop.