UBC to build city on campus by 2008

Monday, April 4th, 2005

Town the size of Penticton planned

John Bermingham

One of three finalists for the campus redevelopment will be chosen next month

University Town will be a city on campus.

The University of B.C. has unveiled three competing visions for what will become the heart of the fledgling campus community.

By 2021, there will be more than 28,000 people living in University Town, 16,000 of them non-students, creating a city roughly the size of Penticton.

“Those people need a place to go,” said University Town spokesman Brad Foster. “They need a community. You need to have a strip for people to go to and mix.”

The $100-million University Boulevard hub will feature a landmark entrance, an underground bus loop and an array of bars, restaurants and stores around a public square.

The plan is to have the 7.2-hectare centre completed for UBC’s centenary in 2008.

The old bus loop will be replaced by an underground transit station. UBC’s existing hub has 50,000 trips a day, the most popular city destination after downtown.

“We need to transform UBC from a commuter campus into a work-live, work-study campus,” said Foster.

Linda Moore, project manager for the architectural competition, said it’s the region’s biggest architectural competition since the Vancouver Public Library in 1991.

The finalists are from Vancouver, London and California.

“UBC is a beehive of activity, and there’s nowhere to go,” she said. “There will finally be a social heart located on campus.”

There are now 500 market homes in University Town, but the plan is for 5,200.

Sales of 99-year housing leases will raise $500 million for the UBC endowment, but the land will always remain UBC’s.

Jim Taylor, chair of the University Neighbourhood Association, which represents people who lease campus homes, said University Town will be entirely self-contained with a supermarket, two community centres, a daycare and numerous amenities.

Retirees and young families will share the space along with students and faculty.

“These neighbourhoods will integrate into the fabric of the university community,” said Taylor, who has spent a decade living at UBC.

But critics claim UBC ignores their concerns because it’s a provincial jurisdiction run by a board of governors.

Judy Williams of the Wreck Beach Preservation Society said UBC is intent on building an 18-storey tower on the bluff overlooking Wreck Beach, over the protests of nude bathers.

Dave Forsythe, with the Pacific Spirit Park Society, said UBC will be cutting numerous trees to build condos.

“It really comes down to money,” he said. “They are trying to squeeze a huge amount of people on to prime west-side real estate.”

The winning design will be chosen next month. The designs are on view at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery until April 10.

For details, see www.universitytown.ubc.ca.

© The Vancouver Province 2005


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