UniverCity’s evolving community turns 10
UPDATED: September 22, 2014
UniverCity residents are celebrating 10 years atop Burnaby Mountain this month.
“We’ve gone from building buildings to building a community,” says Dale Mikkelsen, UniverCity’s director of development.
SFU President Andrew Petter echoes that sentiment. "Given SFU couldn’t move its Burnaby campus down to the community, the University instead decided more than a decade ago to bring the community up to its campus.
“The result—UniverCity—has brought people, amenities and vitality to Burnaby Mountain, while serving as a model for sustainable living.”
Boasting the first LEED Gold school retrofit in B.C.’s history and the greenest childcare centre on the planet, UniverCity has won numerous awards, and is breaking new ground in environmental design.
“UniverCity residents benefit from the high development standards that were co-developed with the city and have turned Cornerstone, with its variety of shops and services, into a hub of community engagement,” Petter says.
“The advantages of this ‘city on a mountain’ go beyond the physical community, as the SFU Community Trust endowment, expected to grow to nearly $150 million, already supports a range of interdisciplinary research in areas such as public health and education.
“Over the next decade we look forward to additional benefits as we watch UniverCity continue to grow and flourish as a unique and sustainable living space for the region."
Known for its award-winning sustainability initiatives, the community now boasts 1,800 residential units and more than 3,500 residents.
Mikkelsen says the community’s demographics differ from other high-density Metro Vancouver communities, where just 12 per cent of residents are typically families with young children.
At UniverCity, more than 30 per cent are families with children. Many are charter residents who have eschewed the suburbs in favour of casting Burnaby Mountain as their backyard.
“They tell us they feel safe here,” says Mikkelsen. “There aren’t a lot of communities you can move into and walk to childcare, elementary school and the grocery store.”
What’s more, he says, UniverCity has one of the lowest crime rates in Burnaby.
To accommodate the growing need for larger family units, UniverCity is planning more family-oriented homes in the new South Slopes neighbourhood over the next five years, along with a new park with community gathering spaces.
“We’re also adding more youth-oriented facilities,” says Mikkelsen. “We started out thinking about a young community, and installed playgrounds for toddlers. Now we’re introducing a new bike park with dirt jumps and a general-purpose hard surface for street hockey.”
As well, Highlands Elementary School continues to grow, with an increasing number of older children, necessitating additional classrooms in the future.
When the 10,000-resident community is complete eight to 10 years from now, the Trust will transfer all commercial properties, rental housing and the childcare facility to SFU to provide an ongoing financial legacy and community amenity.
Meanwhile residents have been celebrating the landmark anniversary with a series of events that included a community block party Sept. 20.