The University of Calgary owns land between the main campus and the Children’s Hospital called the West Campus. A corporation called the West Campus Development Trust (WCDT), whose leaders are appointed by the U of C Board of Governors, plans to develop the space soon.
The WCDT describes the development in its Master Plan as a “vibrant, mixed-use community with a high quality public realm, a diversity of housing choices and unique house forms.” But for all the lofty rhetoric, it’s likely that students won’t be able to afford to live there.
Three residential neighbourhoods are proposed in the Master Plan. Campus Gate will replace existing student family housing, while Ridgeview and South Valley will offer townhouses and high- density housing. Prices aren’t available yet, but the new development will have trouble attracting students with houses fit for oil company executives. Students could be alienated by a gentrified community beyond their means.
We can’t expect a new development to offer rental prices comparable to local basement suites. New buildings always come with a higher price tag. But if the WCDT wants to diversify housing options, offering low-income alternatives should be a top priority.
On-campus housing at the U of C costs on average $800–$1100 per month. Rent in the neighbourhoods around campus is often cheaper, so students already have an incentive to look elsewhere for housing. When only a privileged few can afford to live on campus, campus culture suffers and cheaper off-campus alternatives become necessary for cost-wary students.
Part of WCDT’s plan focuses on building a student friendly community close to campus. No development plans are finalized, but a few nearby restaurants, bars and parks would be welcome.
There’s already minimal community space on campus. MacHall is functional, but it’s overcrowded and loud. Heading off-campus is usually a more enticing option.
As a commuter-campus, the U of C lacks the sense of community that other schools enjoy. We are limited by the campus layout and our location within the city. Developing the West Campus is an opportunity to give students a reason to hang out on campus outside of lectures and tutorials.
If we want a strong community, students need physical spaces that accomodate our needs. If the West Campus plan doesn’t work for students, we shouldn’t lend our support.