The West Campus Development Trust has created a master plan to completely develop the roughly 8.6 million square feet of land west of the University of Calgary’s main campus into a “complete and vibrant community.”
The WCDT is an independent organization working with the U of C to develop the land.
It is estimated that construction will begin in 2015 after stakeholders are consulted and the plan is brought forward to the City of Calgary. To increase communication with U of C students, a town hall meeting will be held in MacEwan Student Centre on March 6 and 7 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Members of the trust will go through the master plan with students and get their feedback.
The master plan for the West Campus aims to open up residential and employment opportunities, increasing the population of the area by as much as 20,000 people, according to WCDT development manager Andrew Wallace. There will also be 140,000 square feet of retail space and 6,600 new residential units.
“We won’t get approvals from the city to actually start working on this for at least a year to two years,” said Wallace. “We’ll begin construction on the land in 2015. Most people in the industry think I’m very, very optimistic.”
WCDT has been consulting selected stakeholder groups made up of community and university representatives.
However, the next step is to speak to the larger community.
“We’ve got to get through this next round of public engagement before we can settle on any hard numbers,” said Wallace.
At a Student Legislative Council meeting on Feb. 12, Wallace and WCDT president and CEO James Robertson gave a presentation on the plan. Robertson said consultation with stakeholders is extremely important in order to gauge what people want done with the space.
“We have a lot of stakeholders involved — we have communities, we have students, we have grad students, we have faculty, we have administration, we have government — so we have a lot of people who we’re working with,” said Robertson.
Wallace hopes many people can attend the town hall meeting on March 6 in MSC.
“We will be presenting the emergent theme and plan of the West Campus and we will outline the process that we are going through,” said Wallace. “We really need feedback from people, from students, on where it’s going and we need to make sure that it is on the right track and we can look at incorporating things into the plan as it finalizes.”
Robertson said that feedback from early consultations has mostly been good.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback. We want to continue that and continue working with all stakeholders and making sure that we are working under a collaborative process,” said Robertson.
Robertson stressed that stakeholders must be patient with the process.
“Land development takes time. The key message is we’ve been listening, we’ve been collaborative, we’re trying to be future focused and trying to make sure the right development gets built,” said Robertson.
According to U of C second-year biology student Trenton Smith, developing the West Campus can potentially combat student apathy caused by the U of C being a commuter campus.
“I feel that a lot of students at the U of C are from Calgary and live at home and I don’t know how the residence situation is, but I feel that opening up a space like that could definitely open up a lot of opportunities for students,” said Smith.
In terms of student consultation, third-year chemistry student Marianna Trujillo said that the university’s efforts to increase consultation have been effective, but a lack of student feedback is one of the largest issues with big projects on campus.
“A lot of students don’t reply to surveys and they don’t pay attention to consulting,” said Trujillo.
She said that developing West Campus could be beneficial, as long as there are clear benefits to U of C students.