This fall, SFU’s UniverCity community celebrated the 10 year anniversary of its development on the east side of Burnaby campus.
Events were held all last week to commemorate the occasion, culminating in a community block party on Saturday, September 20. These included a market, a wine and beer tasting at Club Ilia, and an outdoor family movie night.
The block party featured musical performances by local buskers and children’s entertainers Bobs n’ Lolo, a birthday cake, as well as activities such as a bouncy castle and rock climbing.
Director of development for the SFU Community Trust Dale Mikkelsen told The Peak that the event was, “largely family focused, [including] a big BBQ put on by Nesters,” all free of charge.
When first considering the area that is now UniverCity, developers had the opportunity to build up to 4,500 homes and also had the option to expand into SFU’s 700 acres of land down the side of Burnaby Mountain.
Mikkelsen explained that through a design process in the late ‘90s, “it was decided that it would create a more vibrant and sustainable community if all those homes were built in a higher density — all on the mountaintop, adjacent to the university.”
He continued, “What we could have had was the typical sort of development of single-family homes and townhouses. Instead, we decided to go for a high density community on a small portion of the land. The big move was converting that almost 700 acres of land into a conservation area.”
Over the past 10 years, UniverCity has grown into a community of about 3,800 residents and several businesses. It boasts its own elementary school — University Highlands Elementary — and an award-winning childcare centre.
Mikkelsen spoke to the significance of these further developments: “One of the biggest successes we’ve had so far is going from just building buildings, to building a community.”
There are plans to develop the next building along University High Street, across from Nesters Market. This new building will provide 30,000 square feet of community space and, like other High Street developments, will have commercial space with residences above.
The next goal of the SFU Community Trust is to develop another residential “phase four” neighbourhood on what is being called the “South Slopes,” located on the east side of Tower Road, south of University High Street — an area that is currently home to only a few closed parking lots.
“That will be a great area because it’s south-facing,” said Mikkelsen. “It will really suit young families. [. . .] We’ll also be establishing a second neighbourhood park down there as well.”
Once these new developments are in place, the SFU Community Trust expects the number of UniverCity residents to increase to just under 10,000 people.
To conclude, Mikkelsen commented on the impact UniverCity has had on SFU as a whole. “You can certainly see how it has changed SFU from feeling like a commuter campus — where it’s just students arriving in the morning and leaving at night — to sort of a more vibrant community,” he said.
“I’ve noticed over the past couple years how SFU and UniverCity are becoming the same place. [. . .] It is really starting to become this cohesive place,” he concluded.