If you haven’t been to this 1000 acre “island” off Vancouver lately, called UBC, maybe you should.

Vancouver ends at Blanca. West of Blanca is Pacific Spirit Park, UEL and UBC. Generally speaking UBC is west of Wesbrook Mall. Besides academic and research facilities, student housing and sport facilities UBC also has five residential neighborhoods where you can rent or buy a condo. My wife and I live in one of these condos. The oldest one, Hampton Place at the corner of 16th Ave and Wesbrook Mall was established in the late 1980’s. The newest one is Wesbrook Village, also referred to as South Campus, south of 16th Ave. All of UBC’s land is leased to developers for 99 years who then build townhomes or condos. The lease payments feed into UBC’s massive multi-billion $ endowment fund. The land under development south of Wesbrook is worth close to $1B in my estimate, with prices exceeding $30M an acre for a 20+ story tower, and condos now like Yaletown in the $800+/sq ft range. There are no single family houses at UBC. What attracted us to live there were the views, the closeness to the various beaches, parks and Vancouver, and a very car free walkable environment.

UB - Aerial photo

Since UBC is not in Vancouver, but a provincial entity and governed by a Board of Governor (BoG) it is in the unique position to be the land owner, the land developer via UBC Properties Trust (UPT), the building developer (in many cases, but not always), the approving agency and the project funder.


  • 1 Wreck Beach
  • 2 Museum of Anthropology
  • 3 UBC Main Academic Campus
  • 4 UBC Aquatic Centre
  • 5 University Village (off Campus, in UEL)
  • 6 Old Barn Community Centre
  • 7 UBC Tennis Centre
  • 8 Doug Mitchell Winter Sports Centre
  • 9 Botanical Gardens
  • 10 Thunderbird Sports Park & National Soccer Center
  • 11 University Hill Secondary School
  • 12 Future Community Centre & Elementary School

Did you know that UBC’s annual budget is over $2B ? Did you know that UBC is BC’s largest residential landlord ?  Did you know that UBC is aiming to create a city with around 80,000 people and that we are close to 65,000 today ? The goal is to have roughly 15,000 permanent residents, roughly 20,000 student residents, roughly 10,000 employees and roughly 40,000 student. Did you know that there are several highrises with over 20 stories at UBC ? Did you know it has the only 2 lane traffic circle in an urban environment in BC ?

Here is part 1 of the UBC overall plan and here is part 2.

UBC has its own planning department, called Campus and Community Planning (C&CP), with their own very detailed and comprehensive website. The current head of planning is the very capable Michael White who used to work for the city of Vancouver as a senior planner and then for several years as a senior planning manager in Abu Dhabi.

UBC Residents Governance: UBC created a society in the 1990’s that governs residents affairs, to its now 9000+ residents living on the UBC campus, called, UNA. The UNA is providing municipal-like services to residents and is funded from property taxes. In my 3 years as one of 5 elected director & VP Finance/treasurer at the UNA  I often likened UBC to the Habsburg monarchy. While UBC does extensive consultation, it is more to the left side of the continuum of information – consultation – accommodation in a somewhat democratically constrained (or shall I say castrated) environment. There are no residents on the BoG and we elected a representative for Electoral Area A for discussions on the MetroVan level, but have little say on planning and density discussion here at UBC. Unlike Vancouver, where you can elect a new mayor or new councilors if they do too many foolish things UBC residents can only voice their opinion but cannot vote on planning related manners. As such a lot of contentious issues get resolved in collaborative meetings, sometimes escalating to the provincial level or the MLA (it used to be Christy Clark before she lost to David Eby in the provincial riding). Democracy as such looks different here at UBC for residents. Some called it undemocratic, some lacking, some autocratic, some practical. I just call it “different than anywhere else in a quest for win/win” now.

Below are a few pictures & links to a few of UBC’s many ongoing projects

The full list of all 19 project is here.

Entrance to Wesbrook Place (South Campus) – A very dense development with eventually 9000+ residents on buildout – Here is the overall Wesbrook land use plan.


Model of full South Campus (or Wesbrook Village) on buildout – notice the dozen or so highrises over 20 stories close to Pacific Spirit Park. 3 are now built and 2 under construction, 6 or so more to go plus half of Wesbrook Village over the next 10-15 years. Note every second street is car-free, a so called green-street !


Vancitybuzz article with loads of pictures here.

New Ponderosa Student Housing



New Pool


New busloop with student housing on top


New skate board park, the only university in Canada that has one


New cascading fountains ate entrance


Highest wood frame building in the world


New, recently opened AMS building “The Nest”


Biggest whale skeleton in the world in a museum


Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS)


Whitecaps & National Soccer Center Redevelopment



Cool, eh ? A great place to not only study and research, but live. Very walkable. Beautiful main mall with mature trees. No cars in central campus. Many cool museums. Many benches to relax, study, people watch or just get a suntan (still untaxed). Numerous pubs, restaurants and shopping now. Awesome views from many places (incl. our deck). Clean air due to predominately westerly winds. Much sunnier than downtown or certainly North Shore. Close to beaches and a huge park twice the size and half as busy as Stanley Park, with two bogs, many hiking and biking trails and mature trees. Many bus connections to almost anywhere in MetroVan [ yes, some are too wobbly]. Perhaps a subway even one day .. perhaps. I may see the day. I am only 56.

Come on by for a visit. I’ll give you a tour if you give me some notice !