SFU explores opportunity for satellite campus residences

The lot on which the proposed residences would be built is located near Victory Square.

The possibilities for life in residence at SFU are about to increase significantly. The university is currently considering a new residence building, valued between $15 million and $20 million, near its downtown campuses.

SFU has been in conversations with the City of Vancouver and a local developer in the hopes of extending the scope of its residences. If the project goes according to plan, the residences could be in place sometime in 2016 or 2017.

The project is geared towards SFU Vancouver graduate students.

The lot in question is adjacent to Victory Square at the the intersection of Cambie Street and Hastings Street. The plans for the Vancouver Student Residence project include 52 suites, 36 of which would be studios or single-bedroom apartments; the rest would be two-bedroom or even three-bedroom apartments.

The project is geared towards graduate students, particularly in the Segal Graduate School of Business, but the provided housing would be available to other students as well.

As of now, a construction agreement has been struck with the developer and a development permit application has been filed. Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel also reviewed the project and responded favourably to it.

The question of residence has been under discussion at SFU for a long time. VP finance Pat Hibbitts pointed to the limited residence capacity on Burnaby campus. Currently, SFU residence has room to accommodate 1,800 students.

“We’ve always talked about residence expansion, even up here [Burnaby] and at the other campuses — we don’t have a lot of residence capacity and should we be building more? [. . .] We’ve commissioned a person to do a study on if we should expand residences in all places, not just Surrey and Vancouver, Burnaby too,” explained Hibbits.

She spoke to the significance of the potential expansion. “We’ve traditionally been a commuter school. The majority of our students are from the tri-cities, Burnaby, and Surrey school boards. So it leads to a different pattern than what you see in other places.” she said.

She continued, “It could change the nature of the school a little bit if you have more people in residence.

“Can you build better student life if you have more kids in residence? That is the question.”

The university is waiting for its hired consultant to come out with recommendations as to the finer details of the Vancouver development as well as the residence potential on both other campuses.

Ultimately, SFU intends to provide student residences for all of its campuses, including Surrey, but three years of conversation with the City of Surrey have yet to yield any concrete plans.

“We do own lots in Surrey, we are trying to expand academically in Surrey, and residence is in our mind, but there’s nothing concrete there,” concluded Hibbits.