By Fabian Mayer, October 13 2015 —
Construction on the University District, formerly known as West Campus, recently began in earnest, and bulldozers now roam the site.
The West Campus Development Trust (WCDT) is in charge of designing and planning the new community, which will be built on the vacant land west of campus. The area is bound by Shaganappi Trail, 16th Avenue and 32nd Avenue.
WCDT CEO James Robertson said work began on the site this fall.
“We’re grading the site, preparing for utility installation in the spring and summer of 2016,” Robertson said.
The Trust decided to rename the project University District so people understand the development is for all Calgarians.
“While we acknowledge and are big fans of the link with the university, we also wanted to make sure people understood it wasn’t just for the university,” Robertson said.
WCDT plans to begin soliciting offers from builders next month.
“We hope that builders will be starting construction and we can have residents living here as early as 2018,” Robertson said.
Construction of the community is slated to take place over the next 15–20 years. Robertson said they are also busy finding retailers to move in once residential areas are built.
“One of the fundamental ones that we’re looking for right now is a grocery store,” Robertson said. “We’re looking at who might be willing to come as soon as possible and how big a store they would want.”
Robertson said students have been consulted along the way to ensure aspects important to them are included in the development plans.
“We’ve taken a balanced approach to make sure that we are appealing to as many audiences as we can,” Robertson said.
Students’ Union president Levi Nilson sits on the WCDT’s board. He is excited about the direction the development is taking.
“All the discussions are student-focused, which is fantastic,” Nilson said. “They’re kind of going for a Kensington feel and, personally, I love that neighbourhood.”
He thinks having more coffee shops, restaurants and pubs close to campus will enhance students’ experience at the U of C.
“I’ve had a chance to look at their plans for the general feel of it and what kind of businesses they want to bring in and it looks pretty great,” Nilson said. “If I was on campus when that was open, that would be fantastic.”
According to Robertson, Alberta’s economic slowdown hasn’t impacted any plans thus far, but may do so in the future.
“That will come down to the pace of development rather than the vision of the development,” Robertson said. “Those are things you always look at in development. If the market is slow you just go a little bit slower.”
Robertson claims Alberta’s economic climate was factored into the plans due to the length of the development.
“We always anticipated that during those 15–20 years there would be some economic cycles.”