West Campus plans unveiled

The University of Calgary is expanding its frontiers westward.

The master plan for the development of West Campus was revealed at two open houses, held Thu., Jun. 14 and Tue., Jun. 19. U of C vice-president external Roman Cooney explained the land was given to the university by the province in 1995 and the plans to develop a living community began prior to the building of the Alberta Children’s Hospital, also situated on the West Campus. He added the university began working with Sasaki Associates, an urban planning firm, and Kasian Architecture one year ago to develop the current master plan.

Kasian principal architect Bill Chomik explained the West Campus will integrate a wide range of housing, composed of both general and student residences, as well as a variety of retail stores to create an urban development that will cater to both the public and university communities.

“The general approach is pretty fixed, but the detail is not fixed at all,” said Chomik. “It will be very mixed-use–everything will be there and it will have the flavour of a university town.”

Chomik also noted that while the West Campus master plan is an original design, university towns in the United States– specifically the one at MIT–were used as influences during the design process.

If the master plan is approved by the Board of Governors, Cooney explained an agreement must be reached with the City of Calgary before any requests for proposals from private developers can be put forward. While the current proposal does not include room for new student spaces, Cooney stressed there will be benefits for students.

“An immediate benefit is that about a third of residential [space] has been set aside for student housing,” he said. “The key difference in the master plan being proposed is that it is much more residential in character, much more community-orientated. It is higher- density than what was proposed before, but very much more like a neighbourhood with a more seamless integration of the university and the surrounding communities and the West Campus.”

While the university is confident the West Campus development will benefit both students and the public, many residents from neighbouring communities expressed concern during Tuesday’s open house.

“The density is too high, and there is hardly any planning for increased traffic in rush hour,” said Varsity Village resident Jack Alexander. “Nobody here really knows for sure what the impacts are going to be.”

University Heights resident Penney Kome shared Alexander’s concerns.

“It looks extremely dense to me and I’m very concerned that what they are calling [Research and Development] could become semi-industrial,” said Kome. “Our concern is that the land is supposed to be used for educational purposes. We rallied [about 15 years ago] so the province wouldn’t sell it to developers.”

Because the university already owns the land and the development will be funded by private developers, Cooney noted there is no financial risk for the university. While the West Campus development is expected to generate a significant amount of money for the university, Cooney stressed this new source of revenue will not replace provincial funding.

“Our major funder is always going to be the province and that’s the way it should be,” said Cooney. “But [the West Campus development] does give us another revenue stream so that we can move forward on some of the other projects that we think are important to the university. There is no direct link at this point between the revenue generated by West Campus and main campus, but at the end of the day, all of our university revenues wind up being re-invested in the university, so there’s an impact on students one way or another.”

The university is planning to begin the development in 2008, although the undertaking is expected to span over the next twenty years.

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