From a proposed Aboriginal Cultural Resort to affordable housing solutions aimed at the technology sector, UBC Sauder MBA students are proposing innovative solutions to West Vancouver’s social and economic challenges as part of a new partnership between the school and the district. Their ideas will go to district council on January 9th.

“As residents continue to struggle with housing choice and affordability, and the District faces business turnover and vacancies in its commercial areas, we asked ourselves: How can we transition from an aging bedroom community to one that is more socially and economically resilient?” explains West Vancouver’s Manager of Economic Development, Stephen Mikicich.

“Through our partnership with UBC Sauder, which has extensive experience working in the area of urban resiliency, we’ve been able to undertake focused research on building a more diversified economy.”

Fifteen first-year MBA students from UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School were tasked with exploring three distinct issues facing the municipality: how West Vancouver can capitalize on the growing regional economy and capture more business opportunities; how to fully realize the economic potential for Ambleside Town Centre; and the potential of West Vancouver to become a tourist destination.

The students identified a number of potential opportunities for the District to address its resiliency challenges. These ranged from the development of a Technology Park and Innovation Centre complete with affordable housing, to the improved promotion of West Vancouver’s mountain bike trails and other outdoor attractions. Other recommendations included an Aboriginal Cultural Resort that would fully immerse visitors in Aboriginal life and traditions, and seasonal markets and events in Ambleside Town Centre.

Key to the recommendations was the ability for West Vancouver to be receptive to changes in land use, which will help the District realize greater housing options and diversify its tax revenue in order to ensure long-term sustainability.

Murali Chandrashekaran quote

The District of West Vancouver’s main challenges stem from its current demographic profile; residents have an average age of 49.9 years and 25 per cent of the population is aged 65 or older. In addition to its aging population, West Vancouver has a 93 per cent residential tax base, restrictive land use policies, dependence on service providers living outside of the community, and a limited local market for existing small businesses.

“Cities around the world are realizing that unless they learn how to cope with and thrive in the face of chronic stresses and acute shocks, development and prosperity goals for humanity will continue to be challenging,” explains UBC Sauder’s Senior Associate Dean of Strategic Partnerships and Global Initiatives, Murali Chandrashekaran. “Cities also provide our students with an unrivalled learning cauldron where they learn how to analyze complex contexts, work with a diverse range of stakeholders and develop integrative strategy. For this reason, we are extremely fortunate that we have an opportunity to work with our local community in this win-win partnership.”