It's been a few months since a "For Lease" sign went up at the vacant Surrey Public Market property, and the owners say there will soon be action at the site.
A numbered company purchased the property at King George Boulevard and 64th Avenue for $7.3 million last year and the new owners have plans to revitalize the corner.
The company plans to submit an application to the city by the end of June to demolish a bridge on the site that connects the subdivisions they would like to make. This is the first step to get the ball rolling, said Manuel da Silva, husband of Daisy da Silva, who runs the company that purchased the property.
"There could be action on the site as early as the middle of next month. We want to show people we're not just going to sit on it."
While plans for the site are not finalized, they are not stagnant either, he said.
"We've had a lot of interest for the corner," da Silva said, including a national drug store chain.
The company submitted plans for the site to the city last December, and the plan is a mixeduse residential and commercial development at the front of the site, with businesses at ground level, and apartments above.
"We don't want it to look like a strip mall." But some interested businesses were opposed to the idea of the residential component above, he said.
He said no decisions have been made about what to do with the vacant building that was once the Surrey Public Market.
"When we looked at it further, we saw the building was not in great shape," he said.
It hasn't been decided if the building is going to be repaired or taken down.
But he added there is a lot of interest in the 40,000-square-foot building, which is up for lease at $12 per square foot. So far, the company has been approached by big box businesses, church groups and schools.
'IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES'
Many Newton residents say the property should be home to a community space.
Jude Hannah, who recently formed ReNewton, a community group advocating to revitalize the Newton area, has been fighting to get another public market going on the site.
She said the market is what drew her to purchase her Newton home in the '80s.
"We want a market, a place with cafÃ©s and food stalls - a place to have coffee and buy bread and produce and chat with and meet new neighbours.
"Newton has the most ethnically diverse population in Surrey. Imagine the possibilities with all that rich heritage and so many different foods and cultures to share. It just takes an owner with a little bit of faith in our community.
"Mr. da Silva has a wonderful opportunity here. We hope he takes advantage of it."
Hannah said she sees the revitalization of this corner as a jumpstart to getting Newton "back on track."
She said the corner is an eyesore. "The unappealing corner unintentionally calls out a very visual 'Welcome to Surrey,'" Hannah said.
When it comes to what she'd like seen done to the site, Hannah said she'd prefer the existing building be demolished completely.
"We are aware that the creek setbacks have changed over the years and any new building would not be able to be located as close to the creek as it is now. Although it would be more of a challenge, it might be in the owner's best interest to start with a fresh slate. A lot of people associate the current structure with the general neglect and downturn in the economy that South Newton has experienced."
Hannah said she's heard through the grapevine that a pharmacy is interested in setting up shop at the corner.
"Some members of the community are concerned about any pharmacy located there as most Newton residents are weary of the many methadone-dispensing pharmacies already nearby," Hannah said.
Another Newton resident, Jen Robbins, who runs the website NotQuiteSouthSurrey.com and is co-chair of ReNewton, would also like to see the property turned into a community gathering spot.
Robbins said people from the area often head into South Surrey or Cloverdale to shop, because there aren't a lot of options nearby. Creating something community-oriented on this corner would allow residents to shop in their own backyard, she added.
AN ON-AND-OFF HISTORY
The original Surrey Public Market was opened in the mid-'80s on the corner of 64th Avenue and King George Boulevard. A new public market building - the one that is vacant on the site today - was opened in the mid-'90s and is located farther back from the intersection than the original building.
Once a bustling market where people could buy fresh fish, vegetables, flowers and crafts, the market died a slow death as tenants left one by one.
The new market failed after a few years and has remained vacant since.
Reportedly, the building has been for sale on and off for more than a decade.
In 2010, Mayor Dianne Watts was fuming after the owner at the time, Walter Chan, who owned the Smitty's Restaurant chain, apparently reneged on a promise to donate the market to the Salvation Army.
Chan reportedly offered the parcel to the Sally Ann in 2007, but was apparently trying to sell it again.
Watts was not amused. "It's very frustrating because he's had several offers on it over the years and they've all fallen apart at the last minute," the mayor said in 2010. "He doesn't want to do anything with it, he won't sell it and now this."
The property became overgrown with vegetation and the former market building has served as a sort of hobo jungle as homeless people seek shelter there. The place has also attracted plenty of attention from the city's graffiti artists.
Fast forward to the present. A numbered company purchased the property for $7.3 million earlier this year and the new owners have plans to revitalize the corner.
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