HUB Mall: A campus landmark!

Ishan explores one of the most visited buildings on campus, which also happens to be his home. It is a student residence, a mall, a business office and a community meeting place!


HUB Mall & Residence happens to be one of the most interesting pieces of architecture on the University of Alberta North Campus. While walking past Cookies by George as you rush through the mall to get to your ECON lecture, you must have wondered at least once “What exactly is HUB Mall? Is it a mall or a residence?” Well, it is both! 

The Location

HUB Mall & Residence,, previously called the Housing Union Building, is situated at the heart of the University of Alberta North Campus. Located on 112 Street and 89 Avenue North West, HUB serves as a great landmark for anyone visiting the U of A campus as the building stands diagonally across the university bus station. It is also adjacent to the University LRT station and has an internal connection to the train station which helps commuters enter the building without even leaving the LRT station. It is life saving when the temperature outside is below -30 degree celsius and all you need is a warm and comfortable commute to work or school. In close proximity with other faculty buildings, like the Alberta School of Business and the Humanities Centre, HUB is the most famous and one of the busiest hallways on campus where everyone affiliated with U of A has set their foot on. Quite interesting, isn’t it? 

HUB aerial

(HUB is equivalent to the length of almost three soccer fields - 292 meters)

The History

Proclaimed by some as a work of art, and others, as a mind boggling structure, HUB, continues to be a fine piece of architecture with its “innovation adaptation of the covered street first used in Europe almost 200 years ago” (University of Alberta Alumni Association, History Trails, Twenty Five years of life at HUB). 

With a length equivalent to three soccer fields, HUB stretches close to 292 meters, just falling short of equaling the length of three Camp Nou Stadiums, the home ground of FC Barcelona, by a small margin of 23 meters. Impressive, right? The building falls down on 112 street forming a gigantic “H” when viewed from either end. With an intention to provide affordable housing to students on campus in  the late 1960s and early 1970s, HUB emerged as an interesting project upon the success of forming the Students’ Union Building (SUB). The “development was enthusiastically spearheaded by Jim Humphries, a third year chemistry student, who chaired the SU housing commission” (University of Alberta Alumni Association, History Trails, Twenty Five years of life at HUB). Imagine undertaking a massive project like this while taking CHEM 243? Must have been an interesting journey for Jim!  

The construction of the building commenced in 1971 with some innovative building techniques. The initial deadline had to be revised in order to complete the project and it ended up costing $6.5 million, a million dollars additional as opposed to the anticipated $5.5 million estimate. (University of Alberta Alumni Association, History Trails, Twenty Five years of life at HUB). 

After a brief period of operational losses and a low turnout of customers to the business outlets, HUB started to gain interest and support from the Students’ Union executives to help solve the problems. As mentioned in the University of Alberta Alumni Association, History Trails “by 1975 the building was only 85 percent occupied despite SU subsidized rental rates as low as $60 per month for each tenant in a four-person unit. Deficits for this period totaled $1.8 million and, on an annual basis, $10 of each student's SU fees were spent on bailing HUB out, draining the coffers of the once-richest students' union in Canada”. It was starting to look like the building needed a new set of hands and leaders to revive its operational and functional capacities in order to curb losses and make it a profitable project. “In April 1976, the University agreed to purchase HUB for $1 and release the SU from its obligations related to the mall. (University of Alberta Alumni Association, History Trails, Twenty Five years of life at HUB). 

The Present

Today, HUB serves as a mall and a residence on the U of A campus. It houses more than 600 residents every semester and is home to most international students who are looking for affordable on campus housing as they navigate through their exciting university life. With different options to choose from a four-bedroom unfurnished unit to fully-furnished studio, the University of Alberta Residence Services provides upper year undergraduate students with 11 options to choose from when considering staying in HUB. Often referred to as the most affordable housing on campus, HUB continues to attract international students every semester as they find a safe and affordable place to stay on campus. 

The roof of HUB

I believe I was the first student in over two years who had the chance to explore the roof of HUB, just a few days back. The view from up top was beautiful! While taking in the calming sunrise I could also see some skyscrapers in the distance as I made my way to click some pictures. It was quite visible from the snow that seldom is it that the room is opened for any maintenance purposes. 

HUB Roof

Note: thank you to Facilities and Operations at the U of A for facilitating this visit. Students should not attempt to reach the rooftop of HUB on their own, and should only visit when accompanied by a F&O staff member.

( Pictures from the roof of HUB)

Perks of living in HUB

Well if you have a 9am class and the weather outside is freezing, I am not sure about you, but I’d be in tears the moment I wake up. As a resident of HUB, I continue to live a lavish lifestyle which continues to offer me convenience and joy as I get to my 9am classes. What do I mean? Well, I wake up 5 minutes before class, take a 2 minute shower, dress up in the next 60 seconds, leave home and grab a Coco Cafe from Cookies by George (45 seconds), dash 200 meters to get to the School of Business and hurrah! I am in class right on time, early and bright at sharp 9am. Wonderful! 

In addition to getting more sleep, HUB offers a comfortable residence to international students. It is also home to many food vendors, like New York Fries, Subway and Savoys Express, that serve as decent options for students to grab a bite when taking a break between their lectures. It is also a place of office for University of Alberta HUB’ Career Centre and the eHUB Entrepreneurship Centre, alongside a few other university related resources. Surprisingly, you can also find a Royal Bank of Canada branch in the middle of the HUB, right across from the mailbox. Particularly catered to students, this RBC  branch offers all amenities and banking services a student might need. 

Furthermore, HUB has a number of study spaces and lounges open to the public which students can use when on campus. Interestingly enough, there are also some great coffee shops, like Cookies by George and Remedy, that can act as a lifesaver if you're starting to doze off and need a coffee to keep you up before you enter your next FIN 301 lecture. What a great hub for everything! Perfect for students, especially for coffee lovers and sleep deprived social kids like me. 

Memories of HUB  

HUB has been a home for me for the past year and a half. Ever since I first stepped foot on the U of A campus, it has been a place where I have met friends from around the world, celebrated different cultures and festivals,  shed tears together about the heavy course load, watched countless movies in the Vault ( a common lounge for all HUB residents) and ended up creating countless memories in the process. If anything, this place has been fun to call home! 

Ishan and friends

(Ishan, celebrating Halloween with his friends in the Vault during a party organized by HUB Resident Assistants on October 30, 2022) 

Next time, as you walk through the HUB hallway take a look around and let the beauty of this wonderful architecture sink in. It is rare to have an on campus residence that also serves as a mall and a university office for some student related resources. Our mighty HUB, is one of those rare bundlings! 

Upper-year residence applications are now open! Apply by February 15 and your application fee will be waived.


About Ishan

Ishan is a third-year Human Resources Management at the Alberta School of Business. He originates from Bhopal, a beautiful city in India known as the city of lakes. He has studied at eight schools and has lived in ten cities. Ishan loves travelling, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. He is big on sports and enjoys playing badminton, squash, basketball, swimming and running marathons. His creative side includes writing poems and playing guitar when missing home. Ishan enjoys public speaking and strives to become a visiting lecturer to teach at all of the world's best universities, including Oxford, U of A, London School of Business and the Kyoto University in Japan.