Creating a community on west campus

By Michael Grondin

The planning stages to develop the west campus, the land west of the University of Calgary’s main campus, are underway. The development is expected to make the university more inclusive and create a vibrant community for students, faculty and staff.

Currently, the west campus measures over 250 acres, 150 of which are undeveloped. It stretches from the Olympic Oval to Shaganappi Trail and includes the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The vision for the development includes living, retail and entertainment opportunities that are expected to make the U of C campus inviting for members of the university 

In 2011, when the U of C developed its Eyes High strategic plan to be a top-five research institution by 2016, the university also prioritized developing the west campus. To do this, the West Campus 
Development Trust was established.

President and CEO of the WCDT James Robertson said the trust is an independent board composed of university representatives, students and community members.

“The university does not need the land for university facilities, in the sense of laboratories and classroom space, but they did identify an opportunity to use the land to create a more energized and complete campus by providing additional opportunities for people to live and work,” said Robertson. “The university identified that the west campus lands held an opportunity to complement the university’s plans for growth.”

The project is still in the beginning stages and construction will not take place for a few years. The trust is currently creating an outline for the development. 

“We are years away from moving dirt on the site. It will probably be two to three years before we begin any construction,” said Robertson. 

When the plan goes forward, the U of C will provide the WCDT with a startup loan. The land will also generate revenue for the university.

“While the vision of this plan is to create a comprehensive experience and establish a complete community, the underlying program is also to generate revenue to help support university initiatives,” said Robertson.

Students’ Union president 
Hardave Birk, who is a student-at-large on the WCDT, said the U of C campus is a commuter campus. He said the development of the west campus will make the U of C more inviting to students.

“[The WCDT] is really hoping to create a vibrant new community beside the university. It should complement the university as it currently exists and it should be a community where people are excited to be because of the university element,” said Birk.

Birk said many stakeholders and city committees are being consulted before the construction 

“Right now, the trust is going through an exercise of consulting with different stakeholder groups to discuss the plans. It is a large process. There are many groups and city committees that the trust will have to go through,” said Birk. “Hopefully by early next year this plan will go forward to the city and we will go forward with starting the development.”

The projected cost has not been established, however, the trust will also be looking for investors. 

“I think this development can be beneficial in a number of ways. Firstly, it gives an opportunity for staff, faculty and students to have a little bit more housing right next to the university. The other is that it can expand the community right around the university,” said Birk. “Having a developed area right next to the university can increase opportunities for growth and can encourage students to stay closer to campus.”

Second-year U of C education student Nairn McLean said the west campus development could be beneficial to students.

“For me, the campus is set up as a commuter campus. I live in south Calgary and when I’m done classes I go home,” said McLean. “If this development would have things in it that allow students to sort of hang out and enjoy themselves close to campus, it would be more desirable.”

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