Plaza that can be closed to cars to be at core of Abbotsford’s UDistrict

Stretch of road would be able to be closed to traffic during events

A short “funky” street that can be closed to cars during events and festivals will be at the centre of Abbotsford’s new UDistrict.

More than five years in the making, the neighbourhood plan for the area surrounding the University of the Fraser Valley was given two readings by council Monday. It will now be forwarded to a public hearing next month before council gets a chance to adopt it at a future meeting.

The goal aims to build a vibrant area by making the UDistrict appealing for pedestrians and cyclists, while adding thousands of multi-family homes to the immediate north and west of UFV.

The neighbourhood would be focused around a “University Village,” with its centre being the junction of King Road and University Way, senior planner Mitchell Comb told council.

North and south from that intersection will be the “UWalk,” a stretch of pedestrian-oriented road connecting UFV with a soon-to-be-built pedestrian bridge over Highway 1 at Salton Road.

The centre of the UWalk will be a short new road dubbed “Cascades Plaza” that can function as a central gathering place and be opened or closed to traffic. The plan spends significant time laying out how to create an appealing street ideal for lingering at restaurants, cafés and street patios.

The plan will encourage the construction of four- to six-storey mixed-use and residential buildings for the area immediately north of Abbotsford Centre.

It won’t affect existing businesses in the area, but future development will see the area shift from a mix of uses to a more residential neighbourhood.

The plan also envisions the creation of an east-west road between King and Highway 1 that would run just south of the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah Witnesses. The plan does not change the designation for the Kingdom Hall.

The single-family neighbourhoods in the planning area would remain zoned for infill. That encourages the splitting of lots to provide slow densification, but the city is currently undertaking a review of its infill rules.

The plan would also shift the main bus exchange at UFV to its new “front door” at the northwest of the university and south of Abbotsford Centre.

Council gave the plan plaudits although a couple steps remain before it becomes official policy.

“When you take a look at this, Abbotsford is becoming a university town,” Coun. Ross Siemens said.

Coun. Kelly Chahal said that increasing the vibrancy of the neighbourhood will appeal to the diverse makeup of the student population.

“University students are not all 19 years old anymore and to have a village-type [area] builds community.”

It will now go to other local bodies and First Nations. Residents will get a chance to comment on it in a public hearing on May 28.

 

Abbotsford’s UDistrict is envisioned as an urban community with more retail shops and thousands of additional residents. City of Abbotsford image

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