James Robertson is president and chief executive officer of West Campus Development Trust, which is spearheading the University District mixed-use development. He spoke with Calgary’s Business about the project.
Calgary’s Business: What’s completed so far in the project?
Robertson: Our 2,500-square-foot Discovery Centre – the hub for events, builder show suites and community information – was the first completed building to open in the community in 2017. The centre is located along the community’s main street, which has begun to take shape with new street furnishings, plantings and pavers in the signature style of the community.
CB: What’s under construction and when is completion expected?
Robertson: University District is built on collaboration with excellent partners. We currently have six building partners – all industry leaders in their own right. Our first building partners, Brookfield Residential and Truman Homes, broke ground in 2016. Brookfield’s IVY has 127 townhouse units and Truman’s Noble has 136 units (100 condo/36 town homes). Both projects are expected to welcome new residents later this year.
Construction has started on the Save-On-Foods grocery store as part of a mixed-use block that includes 288 purpose-built rental units, in a project called Rhapsody by Gracorp. Occupancy is expected in 2020. Avi’s August building, part of a mixed-use block on main street, has 120 condo units. Construction will start later this year with occupancy to be determined. Our hotel partner in this development will be announced soon.
A commitment to inclusivity is also shaping University District’s growth. We’re offering a first-of-its-kind multi-purpose seniors housing development between two of our partners. The Brenda Strafford Foundation’s Cambridge Manor has 240 units of assisted and long-term care for seniors. Truman’s 95-unit independent seniors living condo building, connected to Cambridge Manor by a plus-30 walkway, provides a unique environment where seniors’ oriented amenities can be shared between residents of the two buildings. Both projects are set to start this May, and are expected to be complete in 2020.
Design is underway for a central park led by Denver-based Civitas and Calgary’s Gibbs Gage. The park is anticipated to open in 2023. Our long-anticipated two-acre north pond and urban dog park, just south of Market Mall, will open this summer. The community design includes a total of 40 acres of open spaces and 12 kilometres of pathways that are eclectic, imaginative and inspired by the natural beauty of the site and existing surrounding neighbourhoods.
CB: When will the entire project be completed and how many residential units will it have
Robertson: The build-out of University District is expected to take 15 to 20 years, dependent on market conditions. Once complete, the community will have 7,000 new homes, 12,000 new residents and is expected to create 3,000 new jobs.
CB: Can you outline the retail component of the development and where that’s at?
Robertson: University District is in the centre of one of Calgary’s highest density employment areas outside of downtown, which is currently underserved by retail. With 300,000 square feet of retail over nine blocks, we’re creating a curated retail experience that includes a wide selection of urban-style services and amenities that includes a grocery store, along with entertainment, lifestyle, home fashion and food retailers.
CB: Why is University District resonating with people?
Robertson: We’re creating a community that addresses the needs and challenges of the future with a design that puts people at the forefront. Over 50 years the city has grown around the university with low-density single-family housing served with only passive retail and fragmented transportation systems. The University District will transform the area into a 24/7 world-class destination, positively elevating the standard of life for the whole city of Calgary. The project has earned the world’s highest sustainability standard for an urban village, LEED for Neighbourhood Development Platinum certification – a rare and exceedingly difficult accomplishment that reflects the project’s steadfast commitment to a better future. We’re creating a community for changing values and changing times, which resonates with anyone looking for an enhanced, more mindful and convenient way to live.
– Mario Toneguzzi
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