UniverCity: The Suburb of the Future?

By Ben Bull
Published November 10, 2010

Is this the suburb of the future? As worsening gridlock, rising gas prices and ever-dwindling supplies of empty land cause us to re-examine the affordability of our suburbs, the Burnaby BC community of UniverCity is already building a solution.

"In his role as president and CEO of Simon Fraser University Trust, (Gordon) Harris is overseeing the creation of Canada's greenest community." Reports the Star.

"Called UniverCity, it is the very model of modern mixed-use, transit-oriented development; some of its buildings are so energy efficient, they generate more power than they use"

Among the many interesting aspects of this planned suburb are:

"What about the suburbs that already exist?" asks The Star's Chris Hume.

"They can be successfully urbanized," says Harris. "But not without significant investment in transit. People who commute don't see transit as an alternative. You don't need to move out of the city when you have kids and move back when they leave home. The suburbs are no place to grow old. In fact, you become a prisoner in them. But people are afraid. They sense they're going to run out of money before they run out of time. We need to optimize, not maximize."

As for the dreaded 'density' which seems to terrorize so many die-hard suburbanites, Harris has a suggestion:

People are afraid of the word density...Planners must think of better ways of describing what are really aspects of density - livability, affordability and sustainability. In the suburbs, rising energy costs mean diminishing prospects for personal affluence.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2010 at 11:21:06

Meanwhile, here in Southern Ontario, we're happy to sport the worst commute in the world. Yay, Toronto!

"People are afraid of the word density."

Anybody who thinks like that is welcome to start chauffeuring my ass to work.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2010 at 11:25:06

Once you build a city, even suburbs, it is quite literally written in stone. Things can be changed later, even on a large scale, but not with anywhere near the ease with which they were originally built. It isn't just the buildings and streets - once an area is sold off to residents, getting it back is seldom easy, cheap or painless. Finally, a jazzed up development website for somewhere I might consider living.

Suburb of the future? I doubt it. Suburbs that work simply become urban, like the "streetcar suburbs" of a century ago.

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