Downtown Presence Open House

Join us virtually on January 19 at 7 p.m.

downtown campus redering

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.”

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?

Attend the virtual open house

If you would like to learn more about this initiative and share your thoughts during a virtual open house — via Zoom webinar — we invite you to register online.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
7 to 8 p.m.

Register Now

The open house will provide more information about UBC’s plans for academic programs and research activities in the new building.

The open house webinar will be followed at 8:10 p.m. by a 45-minute discussion forum hosted by Prof. Burgess with breakout sessions for more fulsome conversations with members of the community.

Anyone registering for the open house will also be invited to participate in the optional discussion forum.

Send us your thoughts

If you cannot join us for the open house on January 19, please let us know your thoughts by writing to