University of British Columbia: a place of the mind, a place to live

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“I live an active life. I enjoy living in a community where I can enjoy tennis, swimming, ice skating, and hiking. You can play a round of golf in the morning at University Golf Club, have lunch at a Japanese Restaurant in Wesbrook Village, sun tan in the afternoon at a beach, dinner at the Point Grill and enjoy a concert in the evening at the Chan Centre for the Performing Art. All within walking distance.”

It is this lifestyle and sense of community that is key to his business success.

“Many of my clients are looking for a safe, stable, and quiet environment. The majority of the clients moving to UBC have a child studying at the university, so for many, instead of renting, many chose to own real estate in UBC.”

Huang says another major attraction is a highly rated public school in the centre of a lively academic community.

“The major reason why Asian immigrants are drawn to this community is because University Hill Secondary is consistently ranked number one public high school in the Lower Mainland. Asian parents value education very highly and thus wants to move their family to an environment where there's a good school.”

“Schools for the primary and secondary students living in campus neighbourhoods are a core principle of our planning for on-campus communities,” says Joe Stott. 

“The Vancouver School Board is responsible for the planning and development of public schools. UBC has worked with the VSB and residents on a bussing program while the demand for new schools was documented. UBC provided a site and structure for the secondary school that opened last year and there is a site reserved for an elementary school for future development.”

Today more than 7,500 people call UBC home in the five neighbourhoods of Chancellor Place, East Campus, Hampton Place, Hawthorn Place and Wesbrook Village.  Wesbrook Village is the latest development which will continue to be built up over the next 5-10 years, helping to build a residential mass that can support the “retail pioneers” who have set up shops. Joe Stott says what sets the UBC model community apart from neighbours such as Dunbar is the planning and design.

“The UBC community is occupying new medium density residences designed to be more sustainable – environmentally, economically, and socially -- than the nearby single family neighbourhoods developed in the 1920s.  The new neighbourhoods have stronger ties with campus life.”

Back at The Old Barn, plans are already in place to build a new community centre to support a growing and demanding clientele. “We’re now building a second community centre in Wesbrook Village behind the new high school and that will be 30,000 square feet,” says the UNA’s Fialkowski. “This is in anticipation of a larger population,”

The five communities may soon have one additional neighbourhood, but it will not be under the control of the UBC Board of Governors. Block F. is an undeveloped parcel of forest in the provincially-owned University Endowment Lands adjacent to the university golf course. 

In 2008, the block and golf course were handed over to the Musqueam First Nations by then premier Gordon Campbell. The Musqueam band has indicated they intend to develop the land but so far no definitive plans have been presented. The commercial real estate company handling the transaction says the plan is to build a neighbourhood that “blends in” with the existing community. However, development permits still need to abide by the campus planning process.

What everyone is fairly sure of is the future of UBC as not only a “Place of Mind” but a “Place to Live.”

“I believe the UBC real estate market will continue to grow in the next five to 10 years,” says Huang. “Each year I notice more and more people are moving in to this neighbourhood. The reason is that as the UBC community grows and the services expand, more people will find this place attractive and move here.”

``It is a great place to live,” says Fialkowski. “People know each other. I think we’re going to see more people, more of a mature community that is really participating in their own governance through voluntarism; more services that people want, need and desire.”

``It’s a very liveable and walkable community. ``

The campus plan calls for a slight increase of students from the current 37,600 full-time students to 39,700 by 2017. Within that, graduate students will double from approximately 6,800 to 11,300.  And by 2017 there will no longer be a need to live outside campus, as more housing units come on stream.

“Common sense is the driving force behind our objectives to transform the campus from a strictly commuter campus to a more sustainable ‘complete community’,” says Joe Stott.  “We have learned from the successes and improved the neighbourhood plans so they are more complete communities.”

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