British Columbia

Abbotsford isn't a university town yet but it's getting closer

If you want to stop for a coffee or a pint on your walk home from the University of the Fraser Valley, you’re probably in for a much longer hike than you bargained for.

The city has big plans for the area surrounding the University of the Fraser Valley

Plans haven't been finalized yet but the city and university want to incorporate open space concepts into the neighbourhood as shown in this artist's rendering. (UFV)

If you want to stop for a coffee or a pint on your walk home from the University of the Fraser Valley, you're probably in for a much longer hike than you bargained for.

UFV vice president external Craig Toews admits the neighbourhood that surrounds the school is kind of dull.

"Right now, the university is kind of in a rural setting with light industrial across the street," he said. "If you look in the area, there's not a lot of pubs, restaurants and coffee shops."

That's about to change.

An artist's rendering of what the U-District could look like when it's built out. (City of Abbotsford)

The U-District

The city and university have big plans for the area that's tucked behind the south side of Highway 1.

The vision is called the U-District — a walkable, bike friendly place where it's hard to tell where the campus ends and the neighbourhood begins.

"They type of neighbourhood we're imagining has a lot of market housing with ground floor commercial retail services like pubs, coffee, grocery and other places to hang out," Toews said.

"It's a really vibrant, active neighbourhood."

The Salton Bridge, which allows cyclists and pedestrians to cross safely over Highway 1, opened on Thursday. (City of Abbotsford)

New overpass

Abbotsford has a long way to go before its recognized as a university town like Waterloo, Ont, or Halifax, N.S., but city and university planners argue they're not as far off as you might think.

Earlier this week, an overpass opened that will allow cyclists and pedestrians to safely cross over Highway 1 to access the university.

Bob Jones, who manages a cycling shop near the campus, says the current bike route is unsafe because it passes through two traffic roundabouts.

"It can be treacherous," he said. "We've seen lots of people come in to have their bikes repaired after they've had an incident in the roundabout."

Funding for the $4.3 million bridge came from the province's BikeBC Program and the Federal Gas Tax Fund.

The city plans to create a walkable, bike-friendly community. (City of Abbotsford)

Growing community

The area that will become the U-District is home to 3,775 people, according to data from the 2016 Census.

Over the next decade, the city expects the population to grow to nearly 10,000 as more housing units are added.

Mayor Henry Braun says the goal is to create a community where no one will need a car.

"We want to make walking and biking and transit delightful in this city," he said. "It currently isn't, but this is one step toward that."

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