Fourteen years ago, the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) had about 3,000 students and roughly a dozen buildings.
Now, the compact hillside campus near Kelowna International Airport has more than 9,000 students and 35 buildings, says a local residential developer who has been taking a central role in the expansion of the maturing university village.
Since UBC took over Okanagan University College in 2005, the university has added a medical school, an engineering faculty and business management program, said Luke Turri, vice-president, development with Kelowna-based Mission Group. The residential-focused developer has been making substantial additions to the housing stock near UBCO.
As the campus infrastructure and student population has expanded, so too has the need for more housing. The campus sits well north of the city and apart from any meaningful residential neighbourhoods.
“(That growth) absolutely created a pretty unique marketing opportunity there for investors and for people who are looking for a walkable home close to campus,” Turri told RENX in an interview.
U-Eight condos site near campus
Mission Group recently earned approval from Kelowna City Council for its ninth housing project on a burgeoning development site located just south of the UBCO campus.
Called U-Eight, the project will soon start selling a mix of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom condos. The three-storey building will contain 90 units.
Studios are expected to start from the low-$200,000s with three-bedroom units selling in the mid-$400,000s, according to Mission Group’s marketing materials.
Located on private land, U-Eight is part of the overall university village and just a short stroll from the centre of campus, Turri said.
“The area really started to develop around 2013 or so and the overall plan does have a mix of multi-family condominiums, apartments, townhomes, single-family (houses) and some commercial,” he said.
While the university currently provides 1,676 beds, private developers have built an additional 1,800 beds in the area.
Mission Group has also built six other condo buildings in the new neighbourhood, as well as two purpose-built rental buildings which it retains and manages.
U-Eight concludes five-year buildout
Mission Group completed its first project near UBCO in 2015. It plans to start construction on U-Eight in March with an expected completion date of August 2020.
“This is (our) last condo offering up there,” he said. “The primary interest is for investors; primarily that comes from parents of UBCO students, whether they are from the area or other parts of B.C. and Canada.
“Certainly the . . . expected end users are students.”
The building was design by local architectural firm Meiklejohn Architects with a “campus modern” feel, with open-plan living spaces.
“It’s the only walkable neighbourhood near campus. It is certainly in high demand for students to rent, but then they get the condo lifestyle that you wouldn’t necessarily get with dormitory living,” Turri said.
Kelowna’s condo market continues to grow more expensive, but remains a bargain compared to Metro Vancouver.
The median price of a condo in Kelowna is $421,512 compared to $383,094 in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to Royal Lepage’s Q4 2018 housing report. Vancouver’s median condo price is $792,321.
Kelowna has plenty of room for growth
Mission Group formed in Kelowna about 15 years ago.
“We have primarily focused on wood-frame condo housing and townhome housing in Kelowna and we’ve also done a number of projects in the Lower Mainland,” he said. “We have recently moved into the concrete high-rise space as well. We have two active sites in downtown Kelowna that we are working on.”
The developer is vertically integrated, meaning they oversee the entire development process from acquisition, design, approvals, sales, marketing and construction and consumer care.
Mission Group remains bullish on Kelowna.
“We think there is a lot of positive signs with how Kelowna’s economy has matured over the past three to five years in particular,” Turri said.
“We are seeing things like (growth in) the tech industry, the university, the hospital, the airport . . . there is some significant institutional investment in Kelowna that allows us to punch above our weight class as a regional hub.
“There is a lot of room for positive growth.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated U-Eight represented Mission Group’s eighth building near the UBCO campus. It has been updated to reflect the correct total of nine buildings.