It’s been a little more than a decade since the first shovel broke ground on our corner of Burnaby Mountain, and UniverCity has become what its founders always hoped – a complete community that is both admired and emulated as a model of sustainability. We’re proud to provide high-quality housing for more than 3,500 residents, a variety of shops and services, a LEED® Gold standard elementary school, and our crown jewel—the UniverCity Childcare Centre, being hailed as “the greenest daycare on the planet” (and currently undergoing certification as Canada’s first Living Building). Among the buildings, there are footpaths, roadways and transit connections, an expanding Public Art Program and high quality infrastructure including stormwater systems and the planned neighbourhood energy utility.
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 University High Street, Tower Road and University Drive – is to build residential buildings with lower density, lower heights (maximum six storeys) and larger average floor plans than elsewhere at UniverCity. After hearing from the community at previous open houses, we’re pleased that our plans continue to provide what residents are asking for—from additional, low-density, ground- and family-oriented residences in the Slopes to a multi-use park and play space on Parcel 32.
To hear about these plans and more (including updates on Parcels 16/Altitude, Parcel 25/CentreBlock, and Parcel 18), residents were invited to a Community Open House to talk with SFU Community Trust staff including President Gordon Harris and Director of Development Dale Mikkelsen. Attendees learned more about the proposed plans and had the opportunity to provide input for future development at UniverCity.
If you missed the Open House please click on the following links to view the display boards presented during the Open House.