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The fact that the University of British Columbia should be its own neighbourhood stems less from the fact that it’s a desirable place to live – which it is – than the school’s fundamental need for operating cash.
The university was established in 1908 and in 1910 the province set aside 175 acres on Point Grey for the campus. However, the first buildings weren’t completed until 1925. War, and a lack of funds for constructing the university, prevented it from opening any earlier. Indeed, for the initial years of its existence, it operated on premises alongside a B.C. location of Montreal’s McGill University in the city’s Fairview neighbourhood.
Finally, in 1920, the province set aside 3,000 acres of property on Point Grey, itself a growing community. The idea was that the land could be sold to fund campus development.
The crash of 1929 and ensuing Great Depression temporarily put paid to those hopes, but the seeds of a community had been sown. Following the Second World War, what is known as the University Endowment Lands became its own neighbourhood.
Today, approximately 16,000 people call UBC home, more than 3,100 of them on the endowment lands. Many of the properties are leasehold, but a select number of highly desireable freehold properties also exist.
The area is politically separate from Vancouver, and as such must provide its own services. The University Neighbourhood Association is a municipal council of sorts governing the UBC area. UNA homeowners pay a services levy (due to UBC) and a rural tax to the provincial government. The services levy and rural tax, combined, are about on par with the City of Vancouver municipal property tax rate. Garbage and recycling services are provided through the residents’ strata corporation or property management company. Many other civic services as well as amenities such as library access are provided through agreements with Vancouver. Anyone who lives at UBC considers themselves part of Vancouver, and Vancouver, for its part, considers the university as its own.
Residents of UBC benefit from the university’s central role in the life of Metro Vancouver. Situated at the western-most end of Vancouver, it is a terminus for several east-west transit routes and the roads they travel.
Four bus routes, the #4, #10, #42, and #44, connect UBC to downtown Vancouver. The #480 bus connects UBC to Richmond, while the #258 runs to North Shore. Burnaby is connected to UBC via the #9, #25, #41, #49, and #99 buses. Vancouver International Airport is available via transfer to the Canada Line at four different stops on these routes.
A new rapid transit line has been proposed that will further increase access, as well as shorten travel times to points across the region.
Those with vehicles can take advantage of six different parkades.
Cycling is a favoured option, however, with convenient access via several bike routes parallel to key arterials, as well as the many paths that wind through the adjacent Pacific Spirit Regional Park.
UBC bills itself “a place of mind” and many of its facilities have an intellectual bent, from the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and famed Museum of Anthropology, to the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. Yet there is also the Rose Garden and UBC Botanical Garden, as well as sports facilities, and, of course, Pacific Spirit Regional Park, a 1,500-acre oasis carved out of the Endowment lands in 1988.
Pacific Spirit offers more than 70 kilometres of trails, designed for hikers, cyclists and dog walkers. Some trails are off-leash, while others require animals to be under the owner’s control at all times.
UBC is also home to the University Golf Club, and several other venues which offer facility rentals.
The beaches below the Point Grey bluffs are popular destinations. Many are clothing optional, especially Wreck Beach, which also encompasses the lesser-known Tower and Acadia beaches on the northwest side of campus.
UBC is not only a great school in its own right, the surrounding neighbourhood is home to schools for the children of local residents.
Two local elementary schools feed into University Hill Secondary School, operated by the Vancouver School Board: University Hill and Norma Rose Point. These public schools are designed to serve the university neighbourhood’s growing population.
In addition, the campus is not far from the schools of West Point Grey and Dunbar, including the top-rated Lord Byng Secondary School and St. George’s School, just outside the Endowment lands. St. George’s is a private preparatory school for boys from grades 1 through 12. Approximately 10% of students are boarders, from a variety of countries.
The diverse mix of families attracted to the university neighbourhood ensures students receive a rich education, both socially as well as academically.
UBC’s various faculties and student groups host hundreds of events throughout the year that cater to a wide variety of interests. UBC itself boasts more than 300 student clubs, while alumni events, conferences, and community programs attract sufficient numbers of people to campus that one never feels far from the bustle of the city.
One of the most popular public events on campus is the annual UBC Apple Festival each October, which attracts hundreds of people to sample and buy apples, and purchase trees for themselves.
UBC Farm hosts – and supplies – a weekly farmers market during the summer, while UBC FarmAde is a long-standing event in support of the farm that takes place every September. It features local musical acts, a children’s activity area, a bicycle valet, free tours of the UBC Farm, and a variety of local foods including UBC-grown vegetables.
Tower Beach: Situated at the foot of Trail 3, this secluded beach stretches west from Acadia Beach and features two Second World War gun towers built to monitor and protect Vancouver harbour from enemy attack. Clothing optional, it nevertheless attracts a far greater mix of singles, couples and families than the main stretch of Wreck Beach on the tip of Point Grey. The views across Burrard Inlet are stunning.
UBC Rose Garden: Situated at the north end of the Main Mall, the stepped structure of the UBC Rose Garden offers secluded nooks to absorb the fragrance of the flowers from which it takes its name. Views of the water and North Shore mountains are not be missed, though you will want to avoid photobombing the many couples and wedding parties who come here for photographs.
UBC Apple Festival: This annual event is the place to see and be seen each October. A popular community festival that offers a feast for the senses, it attracts line-ups for a chance to taste and buy obscure varieties of apples you’ll never see in stores. Admission lets you stroll the UBC Botanical Gardens – for which it’s a fundraiser – giving you extra bang for your buck.