BC City Guide 2018: Surrey

Surrey is large and diverse, with a third of its residents under the age of 19 and a mix of cultures. B.C's second most populous city, it's expected to surpass Vancouver in size by 2030. Surrey stretches from the Fraser River to the U.S. border and covers 317 square kilometres...

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The province’s No. 2 urban centre is rapidly establishing itself as a business and tech player

Surrey is large and diverse, with a third of its residents under the age of 19 and a mix of cultures. B.C’s second most populous city, it’s expected to surpass Vancouver in size by 2030. Surrey stretches from the Fraser River to the U.S. border and covers 317 square kilometres, more than a third of that in the Agricultural Land Reserve. It has six town centres, yet the part that receives the most attention is its northwest corner.

That’s because it’s being transformed. The area formerly known as Whalley has been renamed City Centre and is being redeveloped from a low-rise suburban neighbourhood to a metropolitan hub for business, technology and innovation. It has a new city hall, relocated from the geographical centre of Surrey; a dramatic public library and SFU campus designed by Bing Thom; and 3 Civic Plaza, a 52-storey mixed-use tower that includes a luxury Marriott hotel, condo residences and a five-floor Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus.

And that’s just for starters. With four SkyTrain stations providing access to Vancouver and points between, financial institutions are using Surrey City Centre as a beachhead into the Fraser Valley. Coast Capital Savings and Westminster Savings moved their corporate headquarters there, and Vancouver City Savings Credit Union has added 12,500 square feet of office space.

Innovation Boulevard, a partnership between the City of Surrey and SFU to grow healthtech innovation and commercialization, supports innovators from across the province through the BC Innovation Council’s Venture Acceleration Network. There are also plans to include sectors such as smart city technology and cleantech, and not just in City Centre. Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Centre and Powertech Labs are already major anchors in Newton, the largest town centre, bordering Delta.

Newton is also home to Skydance Studios, maker of movies in the Star Trek and Mission Impossible series and Netflix’s Altered Carbon, which purchased the former Pacific Press building and built one of the world’s longest and tallest sound stages. Skydance is injecting more than $100 million into the local and provincial economies and has created 400 jobs. The film industry is also bringing economic spinoffs to Cloverdale Town Centre, on the border of Langley, finding its small-town feel and agricultural heritage ideal for shooting locations.

With swaths of farmland and acreages, plus charming Crescent Beach, South Surrey is the least urban part of the city. Until recently, Semiahmoo Town Centre was the main commercial area, but Grandview Corners  and Morgan Crossing, an open-air shopping district east of Highway 99 surrounded by mixed housing, is increasingly attracting local residents.

Population: 527,547
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 37%, 41.6%, 21.4%
University grads: 17.6%
Average household income: $103,195
Average household income under 45: $95,772
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 13.7%
Five-year population growth: 7.9%

Average detached home price: $1,112,617
Average condominium price: $397,159
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $1,077
Average annual household spending on shelter: $25,365

Key industries: Construction; professional, scientific and technical services; film and television; retail
Notable employers: City of SurreyCoast Capital SavingsFraser Health AuthoritySchool District 36Starline Windows
Regional unemployment: 4% (February)

Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $1,506,900,142
Change from 2016: 2.6%
Average processing time for a building permit: Varies by scope of project
Median cost of a business licence: $274.25
Business property tax rate: $6.32 per $1,000 of assessed value, municipal component only; $12.44 per $1,000 of assessed value, municipal plus component collected on behalf of other authorities
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: $21.84
Average retail lease rate: $4.25-$45

Major post-secondary institutions: Douglas CollegeKwantlen Polytechnic UniversitySFU
Major recreational amenities: More than 200 outdoor athletic facilities, including 14 artificial turf sport fields, 65 tennis courts and eight outdoor pools
Key annual events: Party for the Planet: Surrey Celebrates Earth Day; Surrey International Children’s Festival; Surrey Canada Day (Western Canada’s biggest Canada Day celebration); Surrey Fusion Festival; Pie in the Plaza (celebrates Agriculture Week); Surrey Tree Lighting Festival
Average annual household spending on recreation: $5,351
Residents who walk or bike to work: 1.6%