Public wants U-District to be a ‘complete community’

Transportation among the challenges facing planners of city's first neighbourhood plan.

Artist's conceptual vision of the U-District.

Artist's conceptual vision of the U-District.

Arts and entertainment venues and public gathering places were priorities for those who attended a public consultation for the UDistrict Project that aims to build a vibrant neighbourhood around the University of the Fraser Valley.

The project, which is a collaboration between the City of Abbotsford and UFV, formally began in the spring with a public event. The plan has now moved into its second “choices and direction” stage, with planners releasing a 76-page report this week.

The hope is to present preferred concepts to city council and the UFV Board of Governors in December, with an eye towards a final public hearing and approval by April of 2016.

The report suggests that the UDistrict – a 365-acre plot of land that includes the university and surrounding land – could see its population grow from 3,200 people to around 5,650 people by 2040, with the area also becoming a commercial and research and development hub.

At the April consultation event the public expressed hope for a “walkable, mixed-use and complete community” where people can “live, work, shop and play.”

But making those dreams come true will require planners to overcome some challenges.

The report notes that the area’s current structure, with large block sizes and limited street-fronting buildings “does not encourage walking.”

To improve, the report recommends further developing east-west street corridors between McCallum and McKenzie roads and making King Road more pedestrian-friendly, with wider sidewalks and street parking.

There are also a lack of bike facilities in the area, with the report recommending a better connection across the highway to allow cyclists to avoid the McCallum Road roundabout. The report also noted that many UFV students and staff don’t have a direct bus they can take to the campus.

The UDistrict is the city’s first neighbourhood plan. The report notes that the area has 265 acres of re-developable land, although it does not explain where, exactly, that land is located.

The report does note that “the greatest opportunity for integrating the campus with the community exists within the northern portion of the campus lands adjacent to the city.”

Another public event is expected in October to solicit more feedback on concepts for the neighbourhood’s design. A date has not yet been set.

For more about the Abbotsford UDistrict, visit udistrictabbotsford.com.