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City of Surrey looks to update policy on office space in the City Centre (Downtown)

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

As Surrey's City Centre continues its rapid growth towards what many believe will become the regions second downtown, city planners and staff are contemplating its strategy to ensure that the growth in population keeps consistent with office space and employment opportunities in the core.

Planning report:

Here's a summary of key notes taken from the March 28th planning file:

City Centre Plan

  • In 2017, Council approved the City Centre Plan (the “Plan”) to realize this vision and guide high-density, mixed-use, transit-oriented growth. Integral to this vision is the emergence of City Centre as a major regional office and employment centre

  • Office jobs contribute to a healthy local economy and expand the non-residential tax base

  • They allow Surrey residents to live close to work, reducing commute times and traffic congestion. In turn, office workers support commercial, entertainment, and cultural businesses and contribute to a vibrant downtown atmosphere.

Office Supply & Demand

  • Between 2011 and 2019, leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Centre added an average of 7,500 square metres (80,729 SF) of office space per year

  • Currently there is approximately 200,000 square metres (2,152,782 SF) of office space in the City Centre, whereas by comparison there is approximately 2.5 million square metres (26,909,776 SF) of office space in downtown Vancouver

  • Notwithstanding the healthy demand for office space in City Centre, large standalone speculative office construction remains challenging due to high pre-lease requirements needed to secure construction financing

Creating Healthy Supply

  • As a member of the Consider Canada City Alliance, the City is now participating in a number of national efforts to attract major multinational companies to Surrey

  • Currently, staff are supporting investment leads totaling over 18,000 square metres (193,750 SF) of office space, representing approximately 800 jobs

The report goes on to discuss the need for larger scale office development in order to attract bigger businesses to the neighbourhood. However, the city believes that developers are prioritizing high demand residential developments over office space. Comparing it to Vancouver's Downtown core, which has seen a historical amount of new office space being brought to market, Surrey planners believe the city is falling behind.

The City is now contemplating minimum square footages of office be built in key areas of the City Centre. However, developers and industry professionals believe this could also lead to oversupply if not managed efficiently.

Most people are in agreement that in order for a Downtown to thrive, people must have access to not only high quality office space, but amenities that attract workers to the area such as dining, entertainment and retail offering - something that most would say the City of Surrey currently lacks.

A healthy debate took place at the April 11th public hearing, which stalled the proposed bylaw that would change the office space requirements in the City Centre. Here's a link of some of the thoughts that were shared: Surrey council warned about saturating downtown with office space

Planning report:

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