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Update on Semiahmoo Mall Redevelopment

As you may recall, Bosa Properties is planning to completely transform it’s Semiahmoo Mall property in the future from a suburban strip mall into a high-rise urban village. The Province has more details:

If you’re curious about how the bustling Semiahmoo town centre in South Surrey is likely to develop over the next few years, here’s a hint — look up.

Yes, the trend here is moving toward higher density in higher buildings.

Next week you’ll have a chance to peek into this highrise future when Bosa Development Corp. introduces preliminary plans for a $1-billion mega-project on its 20-acre Semiahmoo Mall site.

The plan’s primary components:

  • Six commercial/residential towers (four between 18 to 22 storeys and two “signature” towers up to 36 storeys) and lowrise buildings to house about 1,160 residential units;
  • An enclosed 38,000-square-foot, climate-controlled food court and meeting place;
  • An underground TransLink bus storage area that will assist in improving the region’s public transit service;
  • Public roads, a plaza and walkways throughout the development and a one-acre park that connects to an extension of the Semiahmoo Trail.

Details of these components will be presented at the initial public information meeting Bosa will host May 22 between 5 and 7 p.m. in a separate building at Semiahmoo Mall, 15137-16th Ave.

“This is an enormous undertaking but we think we’ve come up with a plan that balances all the requirements of key stakeholders,” says Richard Weir, vice-president of real-estate development for Bosa, a long-established, privately held, Vancouver-based firm. One requirement was an edict by Surrey city planners that Bosa’s development include public streets and this will take up about one-third of the site.

“When a large amount of site area is used for roads, the development has to be built upwards, not outwards,” Weir explains. “What the city really wants here is an accessible, walkable town centre.”

Weir also says Thursday’s meeting is the first in a long series of public consultations for the multi-phase development. The first of up to seven construction phases wouldn’t begin until 2011, he adds.

The project is being planned so that existing retailers in Semiahmoo Mall, which Bosa bought in 2002, can continue to operate. New premises will be constructed for stores before old ones are demolished and total retail space will increase from the mall’s 275,000 square feet to 325,000 sq. ft.

“The area has changed a great deal over the years,” adds Nicholas Lai, the city’s planning manager for South Surrey. “The town-centre plan for Semiahmoo was upgraded by Surrey council several years ago to allow for higher density and Bosa has been an active participant in that planning exercise. So now the developer is coming forward with the actual development application.”

Once public input from the meeting is compiled, a preliminary proposal will be presented to Surrey city council for approval, probably in late June or early July, Lai tells me.

Surrey councillors will also be keenly interested in how the public responds to the Bosa plan, especially the 36-storey tower.

But Bosa is prepared to address such concerns.

“Any time you’re proposing changes like this people are going to have questions,” Weir says. “The purpose of the information meeting is not just to give the public our perspectives on the project — but to hear their perspectives as well.” 

The Peace Arch News also has an article with some of the residents perspectives:

It’s not just a facelift scheduled for the Semiahmoo Shopping Centre – rather total reconstructive surgery – if preliminary plans by a property developer go through.

Bosa Development Corp., which bought the mall in 2002, wants to build “1,160 dwelling units in six commercial/residential towers, between 18 to 36 storeys high, an eight-storey office building and a number of four-storey commercial residential buildings,” according to a notice received by area residents from the City of Surrey last week.

“Obviously, it’s a great shock to hear that they’re talking about such high buildings – 36 and 34 storeys – and I guess from a personal point of view, my main concern is the probable loss of the Semiahmoo Mall, which is important to the local population from a social point of view,” said resident David Cann, who is also president of the Semiahmoo Residents Association. “From what I can ascertain, there’s grave doubts as to whether there’s going to be a significant inside mall area.”

However, according to Richard Weir, Bosa’s vice-president of real estate development, those with concerns about losing the mall as a social gathering spot needn’t worry.

“We’ve included a very extensive and climate-controlled food court area,” Weir said, adding the development company is very aware of the role the mall plays with seniors in the area.

He said none of the changes will happen overnight, and it will be at least three years before construction starts on the ground level of the multi-phased development, which also includes land surrounding the shopping centre.

Aside from the mix of residential and commercial spaces, there will be city streets running through the site and a one-acre public park that connects to the Semiahmoo trail system.

Weir said his company hopes to retain Zellers and PriceSmart as the anchor stores in the new development, along with most of the existing tenants. The retail stores won’t leave their current spaces until the new stores are built, which means there won’t be disruption to the services they provide. Plans for the indoor climate-controlled area will include a food court, seating area, big-screen TVs and a waterfall.

“What we are striving to do is create is a community gathering place,” Weir said.

Although Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve hasn’t yet seen Bosa’s redevelopment plans, she says the area needs to be revitalized to keep it competitive, especially with the growth of new shopping areas in Surrey.

“If anything, it will enhance the viability of the Semiahmoo Mall because it will get more traffic,” Villeneuve said.

Bosa will be hosting a public information meeting May 22, Weir said. The time and place haven’t been determined but are to be advertised and notices sent to residents living within 100 metres of the development site, according to the city.

Questions or concerns regarding the Bosa development can be directed to Surrey planning representatives Gertrude Kwan at 604-591-4129, or Ron Gill at 604-591-4773.