Above: Mural of the community by University Highlands Elementary School students.

In less than a decade since the first shovel broke ground on our corner of Burnaby Mountain, UniverCity has become what its founders always hoped – a complete community that is both admired and emulated as a model of sustainability. It includes high-quality housing for more than 3,500 residents, a commercial centre with shops and services designed to answer the community’s immediate needs, a LEED® Gold standard elementary school, and a new childcare centre that is being hailed as “the greenest daycare on the planet.” There are footpaths, roadways and transit connections and there is a high quality of development and of built infrastructure (from stormwater systems to the neighbourhood energy utility) that mark UniverCity as one of the most environmentally sustainable communities on the continent.

Phase 1 & 2: Step by Step
The community’s success arose from a visionary master plan and from the incremental approach that we have taken in bringing the vision to reality. In Phase 1, we built UniverCity’s first residential development in the East Highlands, for the first time providing an on-mountain housing option for staff and faculty at SFU, as well as for discriminating buyers from other parts of the region. In Phase 2, we added the commercial development on University High Street, the shops, services and, perhaps most importantly, the grocery store – again, answering an on-mountain demand, whether from students in residence or from new UniverCity residents. We also provided some other essential community elements, including the University Highlands Elementary School and, most recently, the UniverCity Childcare Centre. Now, rather than the sprawling and environmentally damaging suburban-style development that could have occurred for Burnaby Mountain, we have a dense, walkable community that has minimized its footprint while maximizing access and convenience for its residents.

Phase 3: UniverCity’s “Downtown”
While the early developments were a social, environmental and commercial success, it became apparent that UniverCity would benefit from having a greater variety of residential buildings. Many “early adopters” in the UniverCity community were young, first-time home buyers who are now parents with growing families. Some of these people told us they would like the option of larger, family-oriented homes in a lower-density neighbourhood. At the same time, there was an opportunity to build more affordable units in taller buildings right next to the campus.

Accordingly, in 2010, the Trust sought permission from the City of Burnaby to transfer density away from Phase 4 and into Phase 3. That’s why the next few buildings that come on stream in the West Highlands will be taller, 12 to 14 storeys, with a floor-area ratio as high as 2.6.

In addition to providing a larger number of homes that take best advantage of the beautiful views to the North Shore Mountains, these towers will include some smaller units designed to serve those who want to live closest to the campus and to the commercial part of UniverCity’s “downtown” – a neighbourhood that will include the newest Liberty Homes commercial/residential building across from the Hub.

Phase 4: A Different Kind of Neighbourhood
Our plan for the Slopes – the area contained within the University High Street, Tower Road and University Drive – is to build residential buildings with the lowest density, lowest building heights (maximum six storeys) and some of the largest average floor-plans yet produced at UniverCity. Taken together, Phases 3 and 4 will provide the variety that UniverCity residents (and prospective residents) want – including the new, low-density, ground- and family-oriented neighbourhood of the Slopes – while still staying within the established build-out target of over 4,500 residential units.

Information Sessions
Pursuant to the Trust’s commitment to public consultation and the City of Burnaby’s process for ensuring public input for significant rezonings, the City conducted two formal Open Houses in May and the Trust and the City have been digesting the feedback in preparation for the full zoning approval, which we received in June 2013. Prior to the City of Burnaby approval, the Trust hosted two more informal Open Houses in February 2013 to provide community members with information about the planning process and to show how the plans accomodated the input received in the May Open Houses.

If you missed the Open Houses please click on the following links to view the display boards presented during the Open House.

UniverCity Open House Board 1                 UniverCity Open House Board 2
UniverCity Open House Board 3                 UniverCity Open House Board 4
UniverCity Open House Board 5                 UniverCity Open House Board 6
UniverCity Open House Board 7                 UniverCity Open House Board 8
UniverCity Open House Board 9                 UniverCity Open House Board 10
UniverCity Open House Board 11               UniverCity Open House Board 12

The January 2013 UniverCity Community Update newsletter outlines our rationale for this approach and to encourage community input into the City of Burnaby’s formal consultation process.

Phase 4 Zoning Approval
On June 18th, 2013, Burnaby City Council approved a Burnaby Mountain rezoning that paves the way for a significant diversification of residential development at SFU’s UniverCity. The Phase 4 zoning, in a neighbourhood called The Slopes, allows for eight multi-unit development sites, including up to 714 homes featuring lower buildings with some larger ground-oriented units.