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UFV geography students plan to build better neighbourhoods

Geography students at UFV are collaborating with the City of Abbotsford, putting their ideas into practice.

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By Vanessa Broadbent (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: February 4, 2015

Geography students are submitting neighbourhood blueprints to the City of Abbotsford for review and consideration in city planning. (Image: Vanessa Broadbent)

Geography students are submitting neighbourhood blueprints to the City of Abbotsford for review and consideration in city planning. (Image: Vanessa Broadbent)

Geography students at UFV are collaborating with the City of Abbotsford, putting their ideas into practice.

Cherie Enns’ Social Geography (GEOG241) class is working with Abbotsforward, a City of Abbotsford committee, to prepare a new Official Community Plan (OCP) — which involves the residents of Abbotsford in planning neighbourhoods and development.

Enns is working with the City to create a project where groups of students in the class will get the opportunity to design local neighbourhoods.

“They’ll be writing a report on each neighbourhood they’ve been assigned  with a focus on the economic role in the neighbourhood, and [the] idea of designing more complete communities,” she says.

Once the projects are completed, the City will review them and consider them in the OCP.

Aaron Levy, station manager at CIVL Radio and member of Abbotsforward’s Citizens Advisory Commission, explains that Abbotsforward’s goal is to create a community that reflects what the people of Abbotsford want.

“They’re taking feedback from the public and they’re trying to stream that through their professional, urban-planning, development, [and] architectural lens,” Levy says.

Enns designed the project to help students think of new directions for the community within existing infrastructure — a valuable skill to have in urban planning.

“How can we rethink Abbotsford in a way that the neighbourhoods or the communities are more complete, which then addresses things like the need to use your car less [or] neighbourhood interaction?” is one question Enns asks.

Though they are still in the early stages of the project, students in the class are excited to be working with Abbotsforward. One student in the class said the project created a stronger sense of connection with the city.

“I live in Abbotsford and I drive by these neighbourhoods all the time and I’ve never actually looked at what goes on there. So, it’s kind of cool to see the actual activities that happen,” the student notes.

However, because a large number of UFV students commute, not all students feel the same connection with Abbotsford. Another student said this was the case in her group because they all commute from elsewhere.

“None of us live in Abbotsford, so we feel disconnected from this project,” she says.

Enns understands that not all students are familiar with Abbotsford, or even with urban planning, but she explains that the skills are transferable.

“Understanding communities and neighbourhood planning processes is of value at whatever stage, whatever direction you’re going,” she says. “There’s ways for them to take their own interests and integrate that into the vision for the community or neighbourhood.”

It may be a while until a project like this is offered again, but Enns explains that there will be similar opportunities for other classes.

“The official community plans are only updated every five years, but the thing is, just like this project we’re working on, there’ll be other kinds of projects that students can be involved in in the future,” she says.

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