Port Kells, Surrey, has long been awaiting its development fate. Now, finally, the tide has turned in its favour.
Part of the Anniedale-Tynehead neighbourhood south of the Trans-Canada Highway, this land has long been approved for large-scale multi-family residential, commercial, industrial and retail development, but was awaiting a gutsy developer to take on this massive project. Over 150 acres was assembled over the past two years by Dimple Gill of Oakwyn Marketing, Hardeep Gill at Sutton Group West Coast Realty, and Rod Sopko of Royal Pacific Realty, and most of it was purchased by local developer Beech Westgard Developments Ltd.
The development company offered to front-end the cost of installing the infrastructure spine for sewer and water services to the area, with the understanding that future developers would share in the cost. And on May 13, 2019, the City of Surrey approved Beech Westgard’s December 2018 application, which makes way to install the site infrastructure, in an eight-to-one council vote.
Local property owners and the council proved to be hugely supportive of the application, according to Dimple Gill of Oakwyn Marketing. Many owners have been struggling for many years with the area’s lack of basic amenities, from sewer systems to street lighting. At the council hearing, several residents said after the neighbourhood community plan (NCP) was approved in 2012, speculators began buying properties. This resulted in many vacant and unmaintained properties, and problematic rental tenants. One speaker at the hearing referred to the “rampant crime” in the area exacerbated by empty properties and poor street lighting.
The council’s decision is the latest, extremely crucial step in gaining much-needed development traction in what is seen as a prime residential area in B.C.’s fastest-growing city. But it has been a long time coming.
Strategic land assembly
Dimple Gill is one of the three agents who work tirelessly for two years, strategically putting the land assembly together along with colleagues, to reach the critical mass needed to attain economic feasibility for the installation of the infrastructure.
“It was a difficult land assembly, but it was crucial to reach critical mass,” he said. “The developer will be spending close to $40 million developing the infrastructure, so there was no point in assembling just 20 or 30 acres.”
“Many years of planning and hard work have gone into the neighbourhood planning process,” said Norm Porter, partner in Beech Westgard.
“The NCP terms of reference were originally approved by the 2005 Surrey City Council and since that time Surrey staff and the Anniedale Tynehead community worked tirelessly to bring the plan to fruition. The plan itself was finally approved in 2012 and provide difficult to move forward because of the cost of bringing infrastructure to the area and the difficulty in assembling the many properties into large enough contiguous parcels. Based on a careful inventory of all environmentally sensitive features, such as watercourses, wildlife corridors and significant tree stands, development is clustered around such areas. All developments will have to adhere to the most current laws pertaining to these critical areas now and into the future at the time of individual development.”
Porter added, “Our real estate team not only did a great job of assembling the required properties but also continued to do a great job of staying in contact and communicating with the property owners and the entire community.”
The opportunity now exists for the area to become a leading example of masterplanned, mixed-use development in the region.
Dimple Gill said, “Anniedale Tynehead is a unique, diverse and thriving community that complements its surroundings, contributes to the healthy growth of Surrey and builds on its strategic location in the region. This area is in a great location, with connectivity to Vancouver, Coquitlam, Burnaby, Langley, Aldergrove, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and Mission. Four provincial or regional highways come together here and this location adjacent to the many jobs in Port Kells Industrial Area, make it an area unlike any other in Lower Mainland. There are many benefits to both Surrey residents and to commuters.”
Dimple Gill added, “The planned community [in the NCP] is a model of sustainable, smart development that integrates with the natural environment, interconnects neighbourhoods, and provides a diversity of affordable housing and employment choice.”
Norm Porter told council that the developer is “committed to leaving a positive human footprint.”
“We took on this project because we see a need for development to serve the growth in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors of Surrey,” Porter said at the public hearing. “I believe we’re doing that here and I believe we do that everywhere. We consider the environment and the community.”
The site is perfectly positioned financially as well as geographically, and the stars have now aligned to see it finally get developed. Dimple Gill is optimistic for the area’s future, with nothing but benefits to the immediate area and wider region coming from the development.
“Now is the time to make this vision become a reality,” he said.