UBC outlines Vancouver campus expansion and 24,000 more residents

Dec 2 2022, 1:02 am

The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) campus at the westernmost end of the Vancouver peninsula is set to grow and densify substantially over the next 30 years, transforming the campus into an urban environment that is much closer to a city.

Over the past year, the university has been putting together its draft 2050 vision — a 30-year Campus Vision and Housing Action Plan — of significantly adding more academic space to support increased enrolment and fulfill academic needs, more student housing to fill the immense demand for on-campus student living, and more neighbourhood residents.

The potential plan is ambitious as it leverages the future SkyTrain Millennium Line extension from Arbutus to UBC, which is expected to open by the early 2030s. The scale of what is being planned is catalyzed by the expected arrival of SkyTrain.

UBC is envisioning a 20% increase in its floor space dedicated to academic uses, such as lecture theatres, classrooms, faculty offices, and research and lab spaces.

It will also build at least 3,300 new additional student beds by 2034 — increasing its on-campus student housing supply from the existing 14,000 beds to over 17,000. More beds beyond the 3,300 minimum target could be achievable, but this is based on demand and financing capacity. At the start of each school year, UBC typically has a waitlist of 6,000 students for on-campus student housing.

New additional student residence buildings could be accomplished by redeveloping aging residences with larger, modern accommodations, such as the redevelopments of the residences of Place Vanier and Totem Park.

Other potential added student housing could come from new mixed-use buildings, with academic space located within the lower floors and student residences within the upper levels, similar to some of UBC’s most recent mixed-use academic and student residence buildings. Possible locations for such mixed-use buildings include the redevelopments of UBC School of Music, Auditorium Annex Offices, UBC Health Sciences Parkade, Robert F. Osborne Centre for Kinesiology, UBC Tennis Bubble, and surface parking lots.

The new student housing and mixed-use buildings would be in addition to dozens of new standalone academic-only buildings replacing aging structures and infill sites.

To achieve the academic and student housing expansion, taller building heights of up to 65 metres (213 ft) could be considered — up from the existing limit of 53 metres (174 ft).

In addition to academic and student housing expansion, UBC has also outlined potential ways of growing its residential neighbourhoods outside of the academic campus.

ubc 2050 acadia redevelopment

Existing condition of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus. (Google Earth)

The vast majority of added neighbourhood housing would be achieved by redeveloping the existing Acadia neighbourhood, which is mainly composed of older low-storey buildings. The portion of the Acadia neighbourhood eyed for redevelopment is the general area of roughly 50 acres, framed by Wesbrook Mall to the west, Agronomy Road to the north, Musqueam First Nation’s Lelem residential neighbourhood to the west, and Hampton Place to the south.

UBC has outlined two options for redeveloping Acadia.

Option 1: Towers

The first option would be composed of a new major cluster of tall towers in excess of 30 storeys within Acadia, which would not only allow for more housing but also enable more public parks and open spaces. Under this option, taller towers would also be permitted within the southernmost remaining parcels of Wesbrook Village, and the future Stadium Neighbourhood project.

ubc 2050 acadia redevelopment

Option 1: Tower-based Acadia redevelopment, along with new academic and student housing buildings. (UBC)

ubc 2050 acadia redevelopment

Option 1: Acadia redevelopment with tall towers, and more public park and open spaces. (UBC)

ubc 2050 acadia redevelopment

Option 1: Acadia redevelopment with tall towers, and more public park and open spaces. (UBC)

Option 2: Low- and mid-rise buildings

The second option limits Acadia’s redevelopment to low- and mid-rise buildings up to 12 storeys, but the redistribution of density horizontally would reduce potential public parks and open spaces significantly compared to the first option of mainly vertical towers.

This second option of lower density in Acadia would still achieve the same overall neighbourhood residential density increase as the first option, as UBC would offset it by redeveloping additional locations of the campus, including Hawthorn Place, added height for future towers at Wesbrook Village, and other infill sites.

ubc 2050 acadia redevelopment

Option 2: Lower densities for Acadia redevelopment, along with redistribution of residential density in other locations, and new academic and student housing buildings. (UBC)

ubc 2050 acadia redevelopment

Option 2: Acadia redevelopment with low- and mid-rise buildings, lower densities overall, and less public park and open spaces. (UBC)

ubc 2050 acadia redevelopment

Option 2: Acadia redevelopment with low- and mid-rise buildings, lower densities overall, and less public park and open spaces. (UBC)

Each option would add 21,000 more neighbourhood residents compared to today, representing a doubling of the current number of homes on campus. When combined with the minimum addition of 3,330 student beds over the coming decade, this would grow UBC’s future combined neighbourhood residential and student residence population by at least over 24,000 over the next 30 years.

This does not include areas outside of the university’s jurisdiction, including the University Endowment Lands (UEL), which are governed by the provincial government. In 2018, the provincial government conducted a public consultation on redeveloping a 30-acre neighbourhood of the UEL known as University Village — the general area at the southeast corner of the intersection of University Boulevard and Wesbrook Mall, immediately north of Acadia.

These growth figures also do not include the existing plans for building the new Stadium Neighbourhood by reconfiguring the area of Thunderbird Stadium, including building a new replacement stadium with a smaller footprint. The Stadium Neighbourhood alone will provide housing for 3,500 people and additional retail including a grocery store.

ubc stadium neighbourhood thunderbird stadium

Artistic rendering of a concept for the new UBC Stadium Neighbourhood and UBC Thunderbird Stadium replacement. (UBC)

new ubc thunderbird stadium

Artistic rendering of the new UBC Thunderbird Stadium. (UBC)

Currently, land under UBC’s jurisdiction provides housing for about 18,000 people — over half of the 30,000 campus residents. This includes 2,000 people in faculty and staff rental housing, 2,300 people in university market rental housing, and about 14,000 people in student residences. About 85% pay below-market rents.

The future neighbourhood redevelopments would include a tenure mix of market rental housing, which mainly serves students (not to be confused with student residences within the academic campus), and below-market housing and attainable home ownership for faculty and staff.

Additionally, a significant market condominium housing component would not only improve the financial viability of incorporating a major mix of market and non-market rental housing, but also grow the university’s endowment fund and cover UBC’s future financial contribution towards building the SkyTrain extension.

Such a large growth of UBC’s population would also demand additional retail, grocery stores, restaurants, childcare, fitness and recreational facilities, and other amenities.

The university will conduct public consultation on its draft directions for the 30-year Campus Vision and Housing Action Plan in January 2023, with a goal of presenting the final plan to the UBC board of governors in March 2023 towards full approval later in the spring.

TransLink anticipates the SkyTrain extension between Arbutus Station and UBC could attract 130,000 boardings per day by 2050.

ubc bcr6 rental housing wesbrook village

Artistic rendering of BCR6 site for market rental housing, and faculty/staff rental housing. (DYS Architecture/UBC Properties Trust)

The new retail area at Wesbrook Village at UBC. (Google Maps Streetview)

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