Print Edition: January 7, 2015
In the latest step towards creating a university district, four pieces of mixed-use property are set to be developed over a plot of land on the corner of King and McCallum, formerly occupied by the Rise and Shine gas station. The proposed six-storey buildings will include 94 rental apartment units above 9917 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.
The lot has been unoccupied since 2012, and was rezoned for mixed use in September of that year. The gas station was finally demolished after a fire damaged the empty property in August 2014.
Darren Braun, director of development planning at the City of Abbotsford, notes that university students are currently renting apartments all over the city, and that this development will provide more housing opportunities close to campus.
“[The developer] is quite aware that there’s a demand for housing around the university for students, so that’s what he’s targeting,” he says.
The mixed-use nature of the development will also offer shopping and employment opportunities to students living in the area. As an extra incentive, the developer also proposes to supply several bicycles and two electric vehicles for common use by the tenants of these buildings.
The timeline for the project’s construction is unknown, but Braun surmises that development will begin soon. “I would anticipate that now that [the developer] has removed the gas station, he’s going to … move forward in the near future,” he says.
An ambitiously detailed U-District, citing the University of Washington, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Guelph as precedent models, was laid out in the City’s 2012 plan, and would encompass 365 acres of land surrounding UFV, King, McCallum, and McKenzie roads, and Highway 1.
Braun notes the involvement of UFV students in setting the original U-District plan in motion in 2011, when a class of fourth-year geography students led by instructor Cherie Enns polled UFV students to learn about their housing needs and preferences. At the time, The Cascade reported the Geography 460 group’s information session to be unusually well-attended. One student, Angela Ostrikoff, was quoted as saying, “I want to see the beginning of a real university culture; a community that embraces university life, informed thinking, global development and international awareness.”
The students’ findings were then presented to council. Braun notes that the poll was “kind of an ‘ah-ha’ moment” for the City, the university, and the development community.
“That’s what sparked the visioning process for the university district initiative,” he says. “I just find that really cool, that it sparked from a fourth-year [geography] major project for coursework, and five years later we’re going to be doing a neighbourhood plan that’s going to outline a plan for thousands of people and services around the campus … It’s amazing [that] small initiatives can turn into reality with some good ideas and persistence.”
The City budgeted $200,000 in their 2014 financial plan to develop a U-District neighbourhood plan in partnership with UFV, which is set to be completed in 2015. More information, including the original U-District Vision Report to Council from 2012, can be found on the City of Abbotsford’s website.