UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 10 | Oct.
University Town Continues to Grow
The dream becomes reality
By Erica Smishek
UBC computer science professor Raymond Ng likes to joke that
if he has a class at 8:30 a.m., he doesnt have to get
up until eight. As a resident of the town homes in Hawthorn
Lane, a neighbourhood located in the middle of the UBC campus
and named for anthropology professor emeritus Harry Hawthorn,
hes not far from the truth.
Ng is one of 9,000 faculty members, staff and students who
choose to live on campus. That number is expected to reach
18,000 by 2021, when the collection of university neighbourhoods
known as University Town reaches completion or build-out.
The UBC campus is a very unique sub-community in a
geographical sense, says Ng, a faculty member since
1992 who lived for many years in Hampton Place before moving
to Hawthorn Lane. Compared to anywhere else in the city,
it has low density, the air is fresh, the whole setting is
beautiful and rather unique.
UBC has good potential to develop a university town
that is vibrant, that offers academic training, culture and
social interaction. Thats what students will remember
when they leave UBC and thats why they will donate money
back to UBC. They will remember the good times and the sense
University architects first envisioned a university
city in an idyllic setting for UBC in 1914. Ninety years,
much consultation and various strategic and community plans
later, development continues on Mid-Campus and Theological
Neighbourhoods, two of eight local areas that will mix housing
with shops, parks and other amenities to support the academic
and cultural fabric of campus life. Consultation is currently
being conducted on an updated plan for University Boulevard
and the East Campus Draft Neighbourhood Plan.
Our foremothers and forefathers cited this place as
a wonderful university city, says Dennis Pavlich, VP
External and Legal Affairs. Were trying to play
catch-up with that original vision.
Pavlich explains that the idea of a university town is not
new. The urban vitality found in such American campus communities
as Ann Arbor and Berkley or in more historic universities
such as Oxford and Cambridge verifies the success of this
To create a university town that is exciting and enriching
to the student, to the faculty and staff -- it acquaints everyone
to the ideas of civic responsibility, of civic enjoyment,
of cultural enjoyment, he says. Were trying
to make it a pleasant, interesting and instructive place in
the very formative years of a students life. A lot of
adults get a vicarious charge from it.
UBC has essentially been a commuter campus with up to 50,000
students, faculty and staff flooding in to Point Grey in the
morning and out at the end of the day.
This is an attempt to make the campus alive,
says Pavlich. We want to give people a reason to stay
As outlined in Trek 2000, UBCs vision for the future,
University Town will help attract and retain faculty, students
and staff through a mix of new housing and services that will
reduce the number of vehicles coming and going from campus.
The University Town vision calls for 50 per cent of new market
and non-market housing to be targeted to households where
one or more members attend university or work at the UBC campus.
At least 25 per cent of the full-time student enrollment will
be housed within the institutional lands. Non-university community
members will also form part of the future residential mix.
Market housing will be sold on a lease basis, with UBC retaining
title to the land. Money generated by these leases will significantly
increase the size of UBCs endowment, which is used for
teaching and research purposes as well as student financial
While many share Pavlichs enthusiasm, the development
has also had its share of detractors. Some question the sustainability
of both the plan and some of the actual buildings; others
say not enough of the housing is affordable for people who
work or study on campus.
Ng, who has been involved with a campus community planning
committee through the University Neighbourhoods Association
and whose partner also works on campus, supports University
Town but has concerns nonetheless.
If all the houses are going to cost more than half
a million dollars, few faculty members can afford them,
says Ng. We need more balance. We need a certain percentage
dedicated to affordable faculty housing, staff housing and
student housing. We want the majority to benefit from what
Given the expensive housing market around UBC, Ng says affordable
housing is vital for faculty retention and recruitment.
He sees some irony in the fact that a housing plan originally
motivated to keep people who work or study on campus here
and reduce traffic is now attracting people who will commute
to work downtown and elsewhere.
Pavlich asks, Whats wrong with including people
from other parts of the community? Why shouldnt students
mix with people who live on campus but work elsewhere? Were
not creating a monastery here.
People are coming here to learn about life, about science,
about the cultural and social aspects that make up life. They
need a variety of people and experiences.
Ng, meanwhile, likens a more vibrant campus to an architectural
concept from Italy, one of his favourite travel destinations.
I think one of the reasons people find Italy so attractive
is the piazza, the town square. Its a unique meeting
place for people, somewhere where they can share time and
ideas and enjoy life.
To develop University Town so there is a real community
here for people to get involved with each other is a great
More information about University Town is available online