University District the new ‘it’ place in northwest Calgary

The University District community in Calgary’s northwest city has a completely self-sustaining and eco-friendly model, which is set to take 15 to 20 years to be fully developed.

This new community is the first of its kind in Canada and once complete will be able to house and employ roughly 15,000 people.

Gina Schiltz is the lead for the Discovery Centre on site and has a firm vision of the urban and eco-friendly approach that has been taken in developing the land, southwest of the U of C campus.

“Its really important for us that we’re building an environmentally sustainable community,” said Schiltz in a one-on-one interview.

This entire community is LEED Platinum certified, which means they have to have a certain amount of green space, must use energy efficient light bulbs and recycled materials.

“All the wood you see in the discovery centre, its all reclaimed wood from the site,” said Schiltz.

West Campus Development Trust (WCDT) is the company that was created to develop the community in a self-sustaining way.

They are independently owned and operated but still a subsidiary of the University of Calgary.

In 1995 the province of Alberta gave the university the West Campus land in an effort to build its reputation, its facilities, research and education for it to become a world-class university.

Then in 2010 U of C did multiple studies that determined they no longer needed this land. However, they still wanted to keep it and use the land to generate revenue.

According to the WCDT website, “Each residential neighbourhood will have a local commons park to be the outdoor focus of the area.”

“These neighbourhood parks will connect to other community parks and open spaces through direct pedestrian connections and bicycle trails.”

Within three kilometers of the development there are several big facilities such as McMahon Stadium, Olympic Oval, Market Mall, University of Calgary, the Children’s Hospital and the Foothills Medical Centre.

“Ninety-eight per cent of the people coming into the centre are from the northwest and have lived in the northwest their whole lives,” said Schiltz.

For stage one of the project, Brookfield and Truman Homes are the two building companies that have interactive showrooms within the Discovery Centre.

Amy Koehn is a community manager for the Ivy at Brookfield Residential, which is partially responsible for the building of communities such as Auburn Bay, Evanston, Simons Gate and now the University District.

“Brookfield is such a landmark and a part of Calgary, it makes sense that we would infuse into such an energetic new community. Being here just aligns,” said Koehn.

Their competitors at the Discovery Centre, Truman, sold out of their two bedroom units as early as the opening weekend.

“A lot of people want something on one floor, and something large, at least 1,100 square feet,” said Schiltz.

There is also a truck that drives around the district and sprays water on it constantly to reduce the dust pollution for any children who are sick at the hospital.

“We are mindful to not be too disruptive. We get that this is a disturbance to the people who are used to driving and biking through here,” said Schiltz.

Susan Williams and Brian VanBuuren are a couple who live in Varsity, just around the corner from the development.

“I’m looking forward to having a vibrant inner city neighbourhood so close to home. The grandkids are going to love it,” said Williams.

VanBuuren is hoping his house will increase in value with the nearby addition of extra green spaces and a new young community.

“Property values will go up in the area once the project is complete,” said VanBuuren.

Shopping Trip Becky Robison and her mother shop around for a new condo in the Discovery Centre of the University District on October 16. Robison is a teacher nearby and says she loves the area because of all the green spaces and the proximity to Market Mall. (Photo by Jessie Foster/The Press)

When Becky Robison and her mother came shopping around for a new one-bedroom condo, they found it interesting comparing these apartments to those in Hillhurst-Sunnyside and East Village in terms of price and location.

“It’s nice that the mall is so close. I love the greenery around Varsity, love the area,” said Robison.

The opening weekend on March 11 and 12 of this year drew in over 1,300 people to learn about the future community, eat from local food trucks, build their own terrariums and more.

Workers have started digging and servicing the area for putting in foundations and underground utilities for these buildings.

About Jessica Foster 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Jessica Foster worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.