UBC took generations to come into being. The campus was funded by the province and envisioned as “a university city in an idyllic setting” by its founding architects. Construction began in 1914 but was halted with the outbreak of World War I.
The bare girders of the partially completed Science Building stood for years on the intended campus as a symbol of the unrealized vision. In 1922, students took up their own cause and marched, 1,200 strong, from Fairview to Point Grey where they occupied the skeletal structure. This is known as the "Great Trek" and Victoria responded with the funds to complete the Science Building, Library and Powerhouse.
The success of the Great Trek in revitalizing the University project was realized in part through the British Columbia University Loan Act which allocated 3,000 acres of Crown land located adjacent to the University site in Point Grey as an endowment in order to finance the establishment of the University. It was anticipated that this land was to be used for urban development, including retail areas, urban parks, schools, and individual homes and apartments.
By the 1960's, UBC was rapidly growing on a campus of 1000 acres and the "University Endowment Lands" were managed by the Province with no connection to UBC. UBC has thus been using its 1000 acres to fulfill its education and community mandate.
The vision for a University Town came into being in 1984 when Robert (Bob) Lee, a UBC Alumnus with an established record of real estate development, was appointed to the UBC Board of Governors.
Mr. Lee believed that UBC should take an active role in developing a portion of the UBC lands for residential development and establish long-term endowment wealth. With the approval of the UBC Board of Governors, UBC Properties Trust was formed and the area now known as Hampton Place was designated to be the first residential neighbourhood.
Due to the success of Hampton Place and its net gain to UBC of $81 million, the Board of Governors decided in 1994 that an additional 200 acres be transformed into neighbourhoods with a mix of housing, parks, shops and amenities. Following Hampton Place, UBCPT followed with the development of Hawthorn Place, Chancellor Place, East Campus and now Wesbrook Place. From this, UBC will see an endowment contribution estimated at $2 billion over the next 20 years.