Once a highly segregated area of Point Grey seen only as the home of the University of British Columbia and its staff and students, the University (UBC) Neighbourhood is now a thriving – and rapidly growing – district in its own right.
REW.ca was taken on a tour of the area's burgeoning Wesbrook Village and saw that there are a number of common misconceptions about the area. It's time to debunk those myths...
1) "There's not much going on for non-University folks"
You couldn't be more wrong. The UBC neighbourhood now has a new beating heart that has little to do with the university. Wesbrook Village is a rapidly growing residential community with a vibrant retail centre, including a high-street shopping area and several public plazas. About three-quarters of the planned commercial space is already built and when completed will comprise 117,000 square feet of space. The new BierCraft bar-restaurant is attracting line-ups at the weekends and there are multiple other cafes and restaurants to choose from. A huge, beautiful new leisure centre is also under construction, and will be free to local residents, as are the University's library, botanical gardens and Museum of Anthropology. (Residents also get cheap rates at UBC's sporting facilities.) And of course you are surrounded by the incredible Pacific Spirit park with its hundreds of trails.
2) "Housing at UBC is just for UBC staff, faculty and students"
Far from it. The UBC neighbourhood's total population is currently just under 13,000, rising to 24,000 if you include the University Endowment Lands, and a sizable chunk of that is made up of young professionals and families not related to the university. In Wesbrook Village, which is currently home to just under 4,000 people, around 600-800 new people are moving in each year as residential developments complete. Only a limited number of the units recently completed or under construction are for UBC staff and faculty, with most of the condos going to non-University buyers. Wesbrook's population is expected to reach 12,500 when the residential units are complete in 10-12 years' time.
3) "It's not a good place for a family and there are no regular schools"
Wesbrook Village is home to the impressive new University Hill Secondary School, which is the Lower Mainland's top-ranked secondary school and has 1,100 students. Nearby is the Norma Rose Elementary School, and an area of Wesbrook is zoned for its own elementary school. As for family leisure time, Wesbrook has five parks designed into the masterplan that are all completed already, and lots of athletic facilities and programs. There is a farm market at the UBC Farm and more than 150 events each year, including festivals, outdoor movies and regular family-focused events at the community centre.
4) "There isn't a good mix of people living there"
The UBC neighbourhood actually has a great mix of residents. The University itself brings educated professionals and students from all over the world, while the older residential parts attract other well-heeled individuals and families. In the newer Wesbrook Village there is a vibrant cross-section created by the juxtaposition of new market rental units and high-end condominiums, which bring both overseas investors and local owner-occupiers.
5) "It's all new housing stock"
That's true for Wesbrook Village, but UBC as a whole has been an established neighbourhood for a while now. This means there is plenty of resale housing inventory, much of it built in the 80s and 90s, for those who don't want a newly built home. Resale property tends to range from around $400,000 for a smart one-bedroom condo to upwards of $15 million for luxury hilltop mansions with large gardens and views up the Howe Sound.
6) "It's hard to get there and there's no parking"
Psychologically it may seem like UBC is far away – perhaps that has something to do with driving through the Pacific Spirit park. In fact it's just 20 minutes from both downtown Vancouver and Richmond by car. It's closer to downtown Vancouver than either Marpole or Burnaby, and doesn't have North and West Vancouver's traffic-stopping inconvenience of those pesky bridges. UBC is also well served by the express 99 B-Line bus route, among others. Parking used to be an issue in the area, but Wesbrook Village now has 300 spots with free two-hour parking, as well as street parking for visitors.
7) "It's not a real neighbourhood, as it's not part of the City of Vancouver"
UBC doesn't come under the City of Vancouver's jurisdiction, it's true – except for the Vancouver's Parks Board and School Board, which both do include the neighbourhood. This means parks and schools are run just the same way as in the rest of Vancouver. All residential development is planned and run by UBC Properties Trust in partnership with developers. Infrastructure, garbage/recycling, community facilities and so on, are run by University Neighbourhoods Association, which collects property tax from residents just like any municipality. It's a well-oiled machine.
For more information on Wesbrook Village go to www.DiscoverWesbrook.com and for more on the University Neighbourhoods Association go to www.myuna.ca.