Joannah Connolly, Delta Optimist
Atop a forested mountain in Burnaby lies UniverCity, an enclave that was created in the mid-90s to house Simon Fraser University faculty, staff and students, and be a model of a sustainable neighbourhood. More than a decade on, the community now boasts a thriving high street, a slew of new housing development in the works, and more than 5,000 current residents.
One of the key people behind UniverCity is urban planner Gordon Harris, who has published a new book on the lessons learned and how they can be replicated in similar sustainable communities across B.C. and Canada. Harris spoke in an interview to Glacier Media to explain how this approach can be economically viable and, in some cases, is already happening.
Q: How did you and your team approach building UniverCity in a sustainable way?
A: From the start, we wanted to building a community that would bring international acclaim to SFU and the City of Burnaby, and the notion was that the land would create endowment wealth for the university. Everybody was thinking about sustainability, and the idea morphed that we would build a model sustainable community. Those may not have been the exact words used, and even if they had been, it’s not clear that anybody quite understood what we meant by “sustainable community” in those days. It’s one of those terms that means what whoever is saying it wants it to mean. Since then, we have come to regard UniverCity more as a low-carbon community. If we are indeed a model for any kind of community development, what we do must be replicable and scaleable.