Still waiting for a trade centre
To Brian Young, the City of Surrey holds the key that will unlock Cloverdale's potential – more than 100 acres of city-owned property that houses the Cloverdale Fairgrounds with plenty of room to spare.
For two decades, the lands have sat dormant, despite promises to locate a trade and convention centre there, says Young, president of the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce.
The city's preferred option in 2007 called for a hotel and tourist kiosk fronting 176 Street at 62 Avenue – now the site of the Cloverdale Recreation Centre – and a 150,000-sq.-ft. trade and exhibition centre that would go north of the Agriplex and show barn.
A more recent plan in 2011 saw the city call for expressions of interest from private partners who would help build a 10,000-seat complex on the fairgrounds.
It's now the summer of 2014 and Young says Cloverdale is still waiting for the city to make good on its promise.
"What I've been told is, 'we have a plan that we are working on', " Young said.
But he says the chamber, along with other business and community leaders in Cloverdale, want to have more say on shaping those plans.
Transit is a big concern.
"We need a transit plan to tie into a trade and exhibition centre," he said, adding TransLink plans show a rapid transit expansion along Fraser Highway to Langley – bypassing Cloverdale and the fairgrounds.
"That's why you consult with the community– to make sure that the interests of the people and the businesses are met."
An old survey conducted by the Cloverdale Community Association quizzing residents on recreational amenities found the most sought-after facility would be an indoor pool, followed by a new ice arena. Both features are absent from the Cloverdale Rec Centre, which opened in 2011.
"The community's asking for things," Young says. "The city's delivering something else."
Meanwhile, the existing buildings on the site – home to the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, and host to numerous events and groups throughout the year from Sunday's flea market to the new Surrey Night Market this summer – have not seen any major improvements in 30 years other than maintenance, he says.
"What I'm seeing is patchwork on an extremely important parcel in our community," he said. "We have 140 acres of prime, frontage property that the city owns, and we have not been asked for input on the project."
Representatives of the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association are similarly impatient with the lack of progress on the trade and convention centre idea.
Speaking at the Cloverdale BIA's annual general meeting last month, Coun. Bruce Hayne hinted that an announcement could be imminent. "Exciting things will be happening in Cloverdale in the next few years," he told members of the BIA, which represents 280 local businesses.
Hayne called the fairgrounds "A unique jewel – the key jewels to the city," and said, "There are 100 acres right in the centre we could do so much with."
Cloverdale BIA executive director Paul Orazietti said, "A lot of our frustration comes from not being directly involved in the process."
He believes a successful future for Cloverdale businesses depends on other facilities drawing more people to the historic town centre, uniquely positioned in a region that's seen large venues and exhibition spaces developed or enhanced in the past decade, such as the Langley Events Centre, Abbotsford Centre and the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.
"The bulk of people live between Surrey and Vancouver, they don't live in the valley," Orazietti said. "In theory, we shouldn't have to drive to Vancouver or Abbotsford to have trade shows."
Cloverdale BIA president Rob Paterson would like to see something happen to develop the potential of the remaining fairgrounds property.
"But it's got to be smart development. It's got to respond to what the community needs," he said. "I'm totally into listening to what the city has to say, but we need to have some sort of dialogue."