The New Surrey: fact or fiction?

Post by Daniel Fontaine in ,

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Surrey Centre taking shape

Whether the issue is homelessness, sports, the economy or tourism, Vancouver definitely gets more than its fair share of attention. It is a rare day indeed whereby one of Metro Vancouver’s other cities get their day in the spotlight. That is no more evident than when you look at the lack of attention paid to the City of Surrey, pop. 460,000.

At 317 square kilometres, the total land mass of this city is staggering. For years now, Surrey has been Canada’s fastest growing city and it is projected to have a larger population than Vancouver by 2025.

Surrey is home to Canada’s largest RCMP detachment as well as the busiest border crossing into the United States. So why is it that all the attention seems to be focused on Vancouver, while Surrey remains the poor cousin? That’s what we hope will become the focus of a special series of feature posts we plan to run over the coming weeks titled The New Surrey: Fact or Fiction?

I sat down recently with Mayor Watts and had the opportunity to speak with her in great length about the future of her city. Dianne is one of the most affable mayors you will ever meet and she’s also one of the brightest. She also has a wicked sense of humour. There are many in the political circles who predict she has a very bright future ahead of her, regardless of which political arena she plays in.

Over lunch, we spoke of some of the issues Surrey faces as it tries to shed its old image as a semi-rural, low-density, bedroom community of Vancouver. Watts spoke of what she calls the “new Surrey”. A city she firmly believes is coming of age with the development of a new and vibrant downtown district.

When I walked into Surrey City Hall, I was immediately struck by how much the City has embraced the Olympics. There were spirit banners everywhere, and even digital screens in the foyer pronouncing how many days left before the Games begin. This despite the fact Surrey is not a host or venue city.

For Dianne, the fact the Games are not being hosted in Surrey is more of an opportunity, than it is a hindrance. It’s an opportunity for her to work with the citizens of Surrey to find their own niche regarding how they want to capitalize on this major event. That’s exactly what she’s done.

Surrey recently signed a $2 million dollar agreement with the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) to become a Venue City, and will play host to the new volunteer training centre which is set to be completed this spring. With over 25,000 volunteers planned to participate in the Games, this has given the Mayor an excellent opportunity to showcase Surrey in 2010.

Over the coming weeks, CityCaucus.com will feature a special series of posts on where Surrey has been, where it’s going, and the growing influence it plans to have on the future direction of Metro Vancouver. We also plan to provide our readers with an exclusive one-on-one interview with Mayor Watts to get her perspective on the future of Surrey.

We hope you enjoy this new CityCaucus.com feature as much as we’ve enjoyed writing it.

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