Now it’s about to get a Little India . . . er, well, another one.
Plans are in the works to transform a portion of the Newton neighbourhood in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey into a dedicated South Asian-themed shopping district. The commercial precinct would feature an outdoor mall set amid tree-lined boulevards, with shops selling everything from saris and bangles to chai and traditional Indian foods, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun by Kelly Sinoski.
If this sounds an awful lot like the existing Little India on Main Street, technically called the Punjabi Market, there’s a reason. Over the course of the last decade, many of the top Indo-Canadian shops from Main Street have migrated out to Surrey. Not only is commercial space cheaper, but there’s a larger customer base: Approximately 31 percent of Surrey residents (some 142,445 people) are of South Asian origin.
Currently, however, the Newton neighbourhood still feels more industrial than commercial. Banquet halls and small retail shops nestle between large warehouses and distribution centres. A first step in transforming it into a new “Little India” will be rezoning the area from industrial to commercial. A public hearing on the rezoning is pending.
Anecdotally, Surrey already represents one of the top South Asian shopping hubs in the Pacific Northwest. Shoppers come not only from Vancouver but from as far away as California to browse the 128th Street corridor in Newton, a historic neighbourhood bounded by 72nd and 76th Avenues and 124th and 128th Streets. Current commercial hubs there include York Centre, Payal Centre and the Punjab Cloth House.
A recent study indicated that the area could handle an extra 12 hectares of commercial development in the next 15 years.
What all of this means for the survival of Vancouver’s own Little India, the Punjabi Market district centred on Main Street and 49th Avenue, remains unclear. The area has already seen the loss of multiple retailers in recent years, as savvy shoppers head out to Surrey.
What do you think about the idea of a new “Little India” neighbourhood in Surrey? Let us know below.
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