While the University of British Columbia only announced its initial plans to build in Surrey just last month, the university president has hinted that there are further plans to expand in the city.
Santa J. Ono, the president and vice-chancellor at UBC, was the keynote speaker at the Surrey Board of Trade lunch on Tuesday (Dec. 14), where he spoke to the university’s expansion plans in the city.
Ono said UBC wants to “co-create a vision of what we want to do here in Surrey,” with the start of “invaluable dialogue.”
On Nov. 2, UBC announced its properties trust had purchased a 135,000-sq.-ft. property in Whalley, on the southeast corner of King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway, for $70 million. The project is to be built where Grace Hanin Community Church currently sits.
“It hasn’t escaped our notice that it’s also a little bit more affordable than Point Grey,” noted Ono. “A place where perhaps as a university, we can attract and continue to attract the world’s greatest professors to come and live here and to educate the youth of Surrey and to act as economic spark plugs to the innovative culture which is so evident here.”
He pointed to the number of students, staff and faculty that commute between Surrey and the Point Grey campus, which can take up to four hours roundtrip on transit.
“It’s for students like you, and the thousands of students and faculty and staff that commute every day, back and forth between Surrey and Point. This is just as much about you as it is about research and teaching.”
Ono said that while UBC hasn’t definitively decided what the Surrey campus will look like or offer, there are some “very high-level ideas of how the site might be used, just to give you a little bit of a taste of what we have in mind.”
Looking to the nearby Health and Technology District and Surrey Memorial Hospital, Ono said UBC could expand its medical research and training activities.
“It only makes sense for UBC to be part of this dynamic vision. Most visible, of course, is UBC’s significant health presence, not only at Surrey Memorial Hospital where we have dedicated space, but also at clinical academic sites across the Fraser region from Burnaby to Surrey and the Fraser Canyon.”
He added the university is also looking at dentistry, food nutrition and health and urban forestry, among other departments.
But Ono also hinted that UBC is already looking to expand further in Surrey.
He said that hopefully in the near future the university will be able to announce and “additional acquisition that will grow even further our plans for expansion here into Surrey.” Ono later added they are “closely evaluating” adjacent properties.