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A steady and emerging transformation in Surrey

March 29, 2017
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There’s no question that Surrey’s City Centre is transforming. One newspaper column recently suggested it’s a slow transformation, but I have a different view.

Admittedly, having worked in Surrey for more than 25 years, the last four as executive director of SFU’s Surrey campus, I am inclined to support the view of Surrey’s emergence as a glass-very-half-full phenomenon.

My enthusiasm for the City Centre’s future is strongly rooted in what has emerged since SFU’s Surrey campus opened 16 years ago. I am bullish about future growth.

One key reason for my optimism is the demonstrably strong and authentic partnerships that exist between the City, the private sector—including support for the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association (DSBIA)—and public sector institutions such as SFU.

From Innovation Boulevard to the design of the City Centre Plan, we are working together to develop a vibrant, diverse and engaged downtown core.

SFU is expanding in City Centre

When completed later next year, SFU’s new Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering building, made possible with $90 million from the federal and provincial governments, will enhance Surrey’s aspirations to become a technology hub within the Metro region, and will add to the dynamism of City Centre.

As SFU President Andrew Petter outlined in his recent address to the Surrey Board of Trade, the expansion will develop much-needed capacity in B.C.’s youngest and fastest growing community, and will help Surrey drive the most dynamic part of B.C.’s economy—the knowledge economy, fueled by human intelligence and creativity, and strengthen its innovation ecosystem.

But most may not be aware that this project likely would not have seen the light of day were it not for the support from the City of Surrey, both at the political and staff levels. With city support, SFU could ensure the project met very tight deadlines required by the federal funding programs.

Only the beginning

A new engineering building and program is the first phase of academic expansion plans for SFU’s Surrey campus. Further programs in health systems innovation and creative technologies will follow in the coming years as provincial funding becomes available.

SFU is also currently exploring with the city, the YMCA and Fraser Health to develop a new YMCA in the City Centre core that can support recreation, community health and student research and practicums.

As a growing city, Surrey is not immune to the social issues impacting communities across Canada. SFU is working closely with the City of Surrey, Fraser Health, KPU and the business community to help alleviate these issues.

The city also supports the less fortunate in our community through the Local Immigration Partnership, co-chaired by Anita Huberman from the Surrey Board of Trade, the Surrey Poverty Reduction Coalition and Surrey’s Safety Strategy.

Of course there are some practical reasons for slower than expected growth, including the elimination of debt charges and the impact of the 2008 economic downturn on the trajectory of development. 

The development of Surrey’s City Centre of Surrey has a long way to go, but so too have we come a long way. Indeed, the glass is half full, and the future still lives here.

Steve Dooley
Executive Director, SFU's Surrey Campus

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