In 1963, when architects Arthur Erickson and Geoff Massey submitted their initial plan for Simon Fraser University, they envisioned that it would anchor a residential community atop Burnaby Mountain. In 1995, SFU President John Stubbs and City of Burnaby Mayor William Copeland signed a Memorandum of Understanding to begin the development process. Early negotiations resulted in the transfer of more than 320 hectares of University-owned land to the City of Burnaby to be included in the larger Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. In return, the City granted SFU development approval to begin planning a community, later named “UniverCity”. In 1996, the City of Burnaby approved the Offcial Community Plan (OCP) and Zoning Bylaw Amendments for the development, setting the project in motion.

The OCP envisions a dense, mixed-use community on approximately 65 hectares of land surrounding the campus. It allows for up to 4,536 residential units in two distinct neighbourhoods to the south and east of the SFU campus, each with its own elementary school and neighbourhood park. The OCP includes provisions for a commercial core, community facilities, and an extensive network of pedestrian paths and bike trails. At full build-out, UniverCity is anticipated to house up to 10,000 residents.

SFU had two primary goals in developing a residential community: to create a more “complete community” on the mountain, with a diverse range of housing choices, shops, services, and amenities; and to establish an Endowment Fund to support teaching and research at SFU. Although the land remains under SFU ownership, fully serviced and subdivided parcels are available to developers through 99-year lease agreements.

In 1997, the forerunner to SFU Community Corporation, the Burnaby Mountain Community Corporation, was established to oversee the planning and development of UniverCity. Owned by SFU, the corporation is the Trustee of the development lands. The Trust is governed by an independent Board of Directors comprising key SFU stakeholders, faculty and student representatives as well as a number of prominent real estate and development experts from in and around Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

At the same time the Trust was created, the SFU Board of Governors established a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to provide broader community input in the creation of UniverCity. This 12-member committee has a diverse membership including SFU students and neighbouring Burnaby residents as well as municipal planning staff and representatives from non-governmental organizations such as BC Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and SmartGrowth BC. It was through the collaboration of these different stakeholders that a Community Vision Statement was formally adopted and the subsequent design process launched.