EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final in a series of stories leading up to the City of Surrey's 20th birthday on Sept. 11.
Reflecting on the past 20 years, what have some of the city's big changes?
I think just looking at Surrey over the past couple of decades, going from a farming and logging community, and then evolving into a residential suburb of Vancouver, then again evolving into the second largest city in the province with over a half a million people, so, there's certainly been some significant changes over the last couple of decades for sure. And I would expect that as we move forward, and again we have to be very thoughtful in terms of how we want to create the city and what elements we want to make sure we're keeping intact. When you look at the attributes of this city, it is really remarkable that a third of our land base is agricultural, which is very rare for a very large city. And that's a huge asset, as well as being on the ocean and the Fraser River and, of course, the second largest border crossing in the country. There's a lot of really key elements that we have to make sure that we're preserving and making sure that we're moving forward in the future with creating a good quality of life for our residents.
Where do you see the city going in the next few decades?
I think the significant shift that has to occur now, and moving forward into the future, is ensuring that we have the proper transportation infrastructure in place. Whether that's the movement of goods, whether that's the movement of people, they're both very critical because 70 per cent of the region's growth is coming south of the Fraser (River). In terms of making sure that we have our at-grade rail infrastructure in place, like I say with our port and our border, the movement of goods, because you don't want the congestion to ruin the quality of life. We've certainly got our urban forests, which are again very significant and unique in a large city as well. So, the transportation piece is something and the pedestrian-oriented communities are really, really key.
How would you like the city's north to look in a couple decades?
We've been designated the second metropolitan core of the region. So with that designation, and of course the population of over a half a million currently, again making sure that we're expanding our arts and culture community, that we have a lot of theatres, a lot of public art, but as well that we've got mixed-use. You've got residential, you've got Simon Fraser University, along with business. Again it's a combination of all those elements when you look at a downtown core.
Do you see any other neighbourhoods developing like Surrey's downtown? We can't lose focus of all of the other town centres.... Myself and council has been very cognizant to ensure that each town centre is built out in a very thoughtful way as well, connecting to the downtown core. So when you look at the overall city, you want to make sure you do have a vibrant downtown core, but as well, all of our town centres have that vibrancy and that uniqueness and connecting into the downtown core.
Will Surrey always be the City of Parks?
I don't think that will go away. I really don't. If you look at all of the urban parks, if you look at Green Timbers Forest, Sunnyside Acres, we've got the Surrey Bend, the (Surrey) Lake, there's a lot of really great parks as well as active parks and sporting fields. I think that's why we have 1,000 to 1,200 people moving into the city every month. When you look at what Surrey has to offer, it's very diverse in the many aspects.
Is there anything else you'd like to add? One of the things we've been very pointed at is making sure that we're creating a lot of the festivals, family-oriented entertainment, because when you're building a city that has children and youth in mind, you have that vibrancy. But also in the same context, we're developing parks for our seniors as well, because we do have a large seniors population. So we're at both ends of the spectrum, again, which is unique. We want to make sure that whether it's the beginning of life or toward the latter part of life, that there's many elements in place for everyone.
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