How community building creates happy communities

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UBC recently shared a study looking at the increased demand for walkable residential neighbourhoods, where people can walk to shopping, social activities and school. One of the key findings was that while the demand is there, most communities are still car reliant and not pedestrian friendly.

But there’s a growing number of new communities around metro that are making the shift to social and environmental sustainability. You can see this new approach to what’s known as “community building” best at UBC’s Wesbrook Village.

While the old model was to develop housing first, with community planning an afterthought, developing a lively, sustainable neighbourhood is the priority for the planners at UBC Properties Trust. Homes have been developed together with public spaces and services, allowing for pedestrian-oriented shopping, parks, playing fields, school campus, and transit. Contributing to the sense of inclusion, interested residents who want to grow vegetables and flowers can also enjoy space in the large community garden.

Wesbrook Village residents get around via “green streets”, a modern interpretation of sidewalks that connect the entire community as well as the adjacent network of biking and nature trails at Pacific Spirit Park. Although the village embodies the cozy, connected feel of a small town, Wesbrook is comprised of multi-family housing for residents of all ages and phases of life, as opposed to the traditional single-family dwellings with prominent parking garages of suburbia. The lush landscaping and surrounding nature makes this community desirable to socially focused residents and businesses.

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At Wesbrook Village’s Welcome Centre, residents and visitors can enjoy a full calendar of events like free afternoon movies, kids’ story times, and walk and talks. Everyone can gather at the square for outdoor events including festivals, concerts, and markets. Almost every day something is happening at the village, from Easter egg hunts, Canada Day runs, outdoor movies, the Fall Festival, as well as seasonal Halloween and Christmas events.

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You’ll find Wesbrook Village at UBC’s South Campus, just south of West 16th Avenue and bounded by Pacific Spirit Regional Park and the Greenway. The importance of inclusion, community, and a socially focused neighbourhood is starting to take precedence in Vancouver development .The next time you’re in the UBC area, be sure to take a wander around Wesbrook, and admire the thought and creativity that went into building this new community.

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