The UDistrict is a partnership project between the university and the city to help create an overlap between the city and the campus as Abbotsford and the community grows.
“This was an important driving principle…to integrate the campus and the community,” Craig Toews, UFV vice-president, external, said. Toews has been involved with the project since its conception.
The project began in 2011/12 with Abbotsford residents and UFV students and faculty coming together to imagine what the university campus, as well as the surrounding area, would look like in the future. Out of this brainstorming, the UDistrict neighbourhood plan was born.
The UDistrict website states that the idea behind the plan is to “help guide the future development of this area. It will outline the proposed land uses, densities, built form guidelines, public spaces, multi-modal transportation network, and green infrastructure strategies.”
This will include rentable condos in the area, retail spaces, and more walkable access points, to connect the surrounding neighbourhood areas to the rural university campus.
“There is going to be a cool public plaza, and market housing with ground floor commercial retail,” Toews said. “It’s going to bring service and amenities within a walking distance to our campus; a village, a complete neighbourhood is what we are looking for. With the expected growth of the community in the future, this project hopes to provide more liveable spaces, thus creating the impetus for businesses in the area to advance.”
Work has already begun in areas around UFV. The Salton Road pedestrian overpass, one of these projects, will connect the north and south side of the highway. Construction has begun and is expected to be completed in time for the fall semester.
Work will also commence on other projects in the immediate area. The effect of the UDistrict neighbourhood plan will be visible come September, and the entire project will continue over the course of the next 20 years.
Going forward in the fall, Toews hopes that more students on campus can be involved in the project, with the possibility on-campus forums for students to participate in and give feedback. Currently, the university is piloting CityStudio courses, a model where students and city planners join together to solving problems in the community. Toews believes this initiative will be a good way for students to become involved in the UDistrict project, regardless of discipline.
For more information on the UDistrict project, the documents, plans, and drawings are available on the City of Abbotsford website.
Images: City of Abbotsford