Downtown Presence Open House

downtown campus redering

January 19 Virtual Open House

On January 19, more than 300 people gathered online to explore UBC’s plans for academic programs and research activities at UBCO’s proposed downtown presence.

Watch the recording

About the project: UBC Okanagan in the community

In June 2020, UBC President Santa Ono announced the next major step in the evolution of UBC’s presence in the Okanagan and in its ability to serve the needs of the BC Interior region.

In partnership with UBC Properties Trust, UBC is planning a new building at 550 Doyle Avenue. Once design and approvals are in place, construction is expected to begin in mid 2022.

An expanded downtown Kelowna presence will support both UBC’s and the City of Kelowna’s strategic priorities, including UBC Okanagan’s Outlook 2040 vision for the next 20 years.

Serving the needs of our region

The provincial government and UBC designed the Okanagan campus to adapt and grow to serve future regional needs. This has allowed UBCO to be responsive to community demand, introducing new programming such as the Bachelor of Media Studies, a redesigned Bachelor of Education, and a Master of Data Science degree and, with the Vancouver campus, a new program in manufacturing engineering. The campus has also introduced a campus-wide co-op program, and expanded access programs for Indigenous students.

In research, strong community partnerships, combined with globally connected researchers and scholars, and a high value placed on collaboration, have resulted in emerging strengths in the areas of:

  • Healthy people: rural and remote health, chronic disease prevention, healthy living and aging
  • Emergent technologies: materials and manufacturing, sustainable infrastructure, biomedical engineering
  • Resilient environments: sustainability, ecosystem management, restorative and high-value agriculture
  • Thriving communities: arts and creativity, indigeneity, social innovation, community resilience and economic development

Connecting with communities

As a campus that emerged from community demand, UBCO’s faculty, staff and students have consistently worked with the region through initiatives such as the Southern Medical Program, a Memoranda of Understanding with the Okanagan Nation Alliance and the City of Kelowna, Accelerate Okanagan, the wine sector throughout the Interior, the Healthy Cities initiative, Opera Kelowna, the Rotary Centre for the Arts, and countless co-op placements and research projects.

UBC Okanagan’s long-term vision includes more direct partnership with the communities of our region. To support that ambition and accommodate significant growth in programs and enrolment, we’re adding space over the next decade.

The new Commons building (68,000 sq. ft.) opened on campus in early 2019, and the downtown building is an important next step, although much more is needed.

UBCO’s capital plan envisions 460,000 sq. ft. of new academic space over the next decade, alongside additional student housing developments such as the new Skeena student residence (220 beds) and Nechako student commons and residence (220 beds) to be completed in 2021.

Artist rendering of proposed downtown site, including atrium and street view

What is being created downtown?

At the Doyle Avenue location, UBC is planning for approximately 80,000 sq. ft. for academic and research uses as well as additional shared-use areas, office, residential and some amenity spaces.

Community engagement will be enhanced by:

  • a welcoming public atrium space
  • a public engagement learning suite for community programs, meetings and workshops
  • creative innovation space and a gallery capable of welcoming artwork from around the world to the Okanagan

The vision for these spaces speaks to the highly adaptable and interdisciplinary approach UBC will take across the range of public uses in the building.

The Health Hub will serve as a site for training the next generation of community engaged health professionals. It will act as a living laboratory for student experiential learning, making learning relatable to lived experience, while providing care to members of our community. Students will be able to put their skills into immediate practice from administering vaccinations to providing supports to people struggling with addictions to providing exercise programming for seniors.

Similarly, the Hub will house cutting-edge research aimed at making the lives of Canadians better, starting with Kelowna. Whether it is seeking new solutions to homelessness, designing new interventions to prevent and treat diabetes, or supporting people and their families at the end of life, researchers and their trainees will be embedded within our community and working with community members to answer the health challenges that are important to British Columbia and Canada.

The vision for public engagement and learning activities at the downtown location is interdisciplinary programming, co-created by the people of the Okanagan and BC’s Interior, and by faculty and staff from across UBC.

For example, programs on wine tasting are being developed with international partners. In addition to making use of the general learning and discussion spaces in the public engagement and learning suite, wine tasting will be supported by the suite’s new sensory lab. It will enable research and learning about multiple aspects of sensory analysis. The suite will be equipped to the highest standards to enable groups of about 30 – residents of our region, visitors and students – to learn how to taste a wine knowledgably, and to be able to identify its characteristics, qualities and faults.

This wine programming will be delivered as part of the Wine Research Centre, created as a dual-campus UBC centre by the Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Faculty of Management, and Vancouver’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems.

Prof. Bryce Traister, Dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, has described the gallery as a wonderful opportunity for practicing artists — and newcomers, students, creatives of all kinds — to think of a place where their creation would find expression and engagement with multiple public communities.

The Creative Innovation space will be a centre that enables cutting-edge prototyping and rapid development within a community engaged space. This flexible site for learning is designed to support new research forms in design and art with embedded entrepreneurial approaches. This exciting space will host students and community and research partners, and is being fashioned to build connections that foster economic growth and innovation within the Okanagan.

“At times, it will look like what we think of being a traditional art gallery with pieces of art hanging on the wall curated by professional curators, art historians and students,” Dean Traister notes. “It will also be an engagement and launch space for new kinds of creative work that may not fall into our usual understandings of what art can or cannot be, but tell the story of the new aesthetic and critical stories that are driving creativity globally.”

Frequently Asked Questions

General

Since our creation in 2005, we have grown from 3,000 students to more than 11,000 today and we expect our community to continue its development, reaching a population of between 13,000 to 18,000 by 2040. With this kind of expanded presence over the coming years, paired with our ongoing commitment to community engagement and impact, it only makes sense that we would create community-facing academic space in the heart of Kelowna, in close proximity to many of our community partners working in health, tech, business, and arts and culture.

While the UBC Okanagan campus offers a variety of opportunities for faculty and students, having a presence downtown means that those who are engaged in community-based academic work have better access to community partners, resources and expertise.

For instance, students in the Faculty of Health and Social Development are training to be the best and brightest in the health-care and social work fields and will benefit from proximity to partners like Interior Health, the Kelowna General Hospital, and social-service providers like the Kelowna Gospel Mission. Researchers will benefit from strengthening community-based organizations that allow them to pursue their research programs and connect more easily with the public. Our intention is to bring community-focused academic activities into the heart of the community.

This investment represents UBC’s commitment to the long-term future of its Okanagan campus and relies on the extensive market analysis that is done whenever the university is contemplating development projects. That analysis takes into account real estate values, zoning available for university activities and any municipal agreements that may be in place.

The university has been incrementally establishing a series of off-campus sites in Kelowna and this project will build on efforts to date. Our present off-campus activities include the Clinical Academic Campus at Kelowna General Hospital, the Innovation UBC Hub at the Okanagan Innovation Centre, and our presence at the Okanagan Regional Library, the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre and the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Construction, design & Transportation

Currently, we are planning the academic activities that will be downtown and will soon enter the design phase. There is a lot of work to be done in planning and partnerships with the Syilx Okanagan Nation and with other stakeholder groups, and we want to be thoughtful and respectful through that process. We hope to start construction in spring 2022, with a goal of occupancy for fall 2024.

UBC Okanagan is intent on developing a design that adheres to the same strict low-carbon and sustainable standards that are already in place on campus. Campus Planning, our sustainability team and the UBC Properties Trust will be deliberate in deploying best practices in environmental construction and sustainability.

We want to provide necessary parking for those who rely on vehicles, but at the same time, keep a keen eye on encouraging sustainable modes of transportation, like walking, biking and public transit. We are strongly supportive of ensuring people can access both UBC locations by alternative means. The downtown project will be very close to the Okanagan Rail Trail and public transit arteries so moving by bike between UBC Okanagan and the downtown site will not only be possible but also safe, fun and sustainable.

The overall project site development is being coordinated by UBC Properties Trust along with Mission Group, who will own and develop the two towers to the north of the UBC-owned academic and residential tower. It is anticipated that one tower will be largely for commercial activities and the other as a residential development. More information on this will be available as designs are finalized.

We are actively working with our many partners, particularly in the downtown core, to determine how UBCO’s academic presence can contribute to the cultural and economic fabric of Kelowna and create stronger connections with the community. We are still in the early stages of planning and other partnership opportunities will be shared as they become available.

Community Engagement

This downtown presence will be, at its core, an academic space. However, we plan to include expansion space that will be available to accommodate partners who share UBC’s vision of inspiring people, ideas and actions for a better world.

 

There is no question that we, as a community, want to see the downtown site as one that is part of our social fabric and one in which there will be a steady stream of community-focused events and activities. The design of the project will meet the needs of academic programming expected to take place there but will also be available other community activities based on what the facility can accommodate.

We are still in the design phase, so while we are eager to start to engage with the non-profit community. Our first goal is to determine how we can best serve our students, faculty and staff who will utilize this space. As we determine those criteria, we expect engagement opportunities will develop from there.

Learning & Spaces

There is a myriad of opportunities in the non-academic space, and we will be exploring how best to create space that fosters global citizenship and advances a sustainable and just society.

As our campus enters its 16th year, UBC alumni are a critical and growing part of our community. Many UBCO graduates choose to stay in the region to live, work, open businesses, volunteer and contribute to the Okanagan in many different ways. Connecting with alumni in the downtown core will be an important way we can foster those relationships. We will continue to consider how to connect with our UBC alumni at this location as we finalize plans.

 

We’re very intentional on making sure that we’re creating a diverse community, not only with international students, but also with groups that are underrepresented within Canada. This is a top priority for UBC Okanagan, and you can expect that our commitment to diversity will represented in the downtown site.

We anticipate that the new building will be a mix of academic space, leased office space and university rental housing. The exact size and nature of each has yet to be established and will become clearer as we work through the zoning and architectural planning phases over the next several months. It’s important to note that the housing that is included in the project is not a student residence but a facility where units will be rented out to students and others at rental rates that support their construction.

Inviting your perspective

The university is seeking perspectives on how you would like to engage with UBC in future new spaces, either on campus or elsewhere in the community, and other ways you think we can work together to enhance the community-university relationship in coming years.

Questions to consider

  • What most interests or even excites you about the downtown site?
  • How are you likely to engage with the downtown site?
  • How are your family and friends likely to engage with the downtown site?
  • Are there programs or other ways of accessing the university you would like to see but haven’t been created yet?

Send us your thoughts

Please let us know your thoughts by writing to downtown.ok@ubc.ca.