gained in having the Laurier name,” she says. Dr. Cooper is also proud
of Laurier Brantford’s innovative track record as a university “built on
partnerships,” such as those with Nipissing University, Mohawk College
and various community groups.
In the beginning, recalls Dr. Groarke, students asked, “What are we
doing in this flea-bitten, beat-up campus?” But others felt Laurier was
“changing the world by restoring beautiful, historic buildings in Brant-
ford.” That heritage model is one that others, including U of Windsor and
University of Winnipeg, also try to include in their developments.
But repurposing and renovating existing heritage buildings can be
tricky. “The challenge with adaptive reuse can be cost, especially if there
are serious environmental remediation or structure issues,” says Michel
Trocmé, a partner at Toronto-based Urban Strategies Inc., a planning and
urban design firm.
Cohesiveness between campuses can also be a challenge, as Laurier
discovered when it established its Brantford campus 50 km away from the
main campus. Mr. Trocmé says the question of multiple campuses is moot
because “all institutions need to be strategic in order to grow and compete.
The DNA of an institution is not in its bricks and mortar but in the
strength of its programs, faculty and leadership, as well as in the success
of its graduates.”
He adds that there are ups and downs to all this growth. Land values
rise but so do taxes, which helps municipalities. Retail businesses and
restaurants prosper, but community services can be squeezed out due to
higher land values. Growing daytime population increases the viability
of public transit but also creates congestion. The key, says Mr. Trocmé,
and others agree, is consulting the community and creating connections.
Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel says tens of thousands of postsec-
ondary students now frequent the downtown, a dramatic growth in the
last five years that has helped area businesses. “It’s just mushroomed,” he
says. “Anytime I walk down there the businesses are full. You can’t get
Mario Polèse, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Urban and
Regional Studies at Université du Quebec’s Institut national de la recherche
scientifique, knows first-hand the important role a campus plays in an
urban core. In 1965, Université Laval moved out of downtown Quebec
City and into the suburbs.
“The impact on the downtown was incredible. The whole place col-
lapsed,” says Dr. Polèse, who studied at the suburban campus. Since then,
the university has started moving back downtown and “it’s working fairly
well, but the damage has been done.”
Unlike Université Laval, U of Winnipeg has remained a fixture in the
downtown core since its founding as Manitoba College in 1871. It could
have decided to expand in various locations throughout the city but
instead embarked on an ambitious growth plan downtown, guided by
Lloyd Axworthy after he became president in 2004.
Three years after his arrival, U of Winnipeg spent about $150 million on
new buildings and redeveloping existing structures. Last year, the Buhler
Centre opened at a former United Army Surplus Store, offering a home to
the faculty of business and economics, the division of continuing education
and the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art. Last spring, the $70-million
Richardson College for the Environment and Science opened its doors.
The university also built townhouses for its students and opened daycare
centres, with about a third of the places earmarked for the community.
Recognizing the need to connect with the large aboriginal and immigrant
populations of Winnipeg, the university launched innovative initiatives like
an Opportunity Fund that allows youngsters to acquire tuition credits, start-
ing as early as Grade 4, that they can use toward their university education.
With growth of retail and hospitality industries in downtown Winni-
peg, fueled in part by the return of the National Hockey League’s Jets and
construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, there is a “real
buzz” in the downtown, says Dr. Axworthy. “I’ve always said we probably
have the best university location in the country.”
He stresses that a university needs to create community connections
• Last May, the University of the Fraser
Valley announced plans to open
a campus in downtown Abbotsford,
within walking distance of city hall.
• University of Alberta’s Enterprise
Square opened in 2008 in
the historic former Hudson’s Bay
building in downtown Edmonton.
It has light rail transit links to the
other U of A campuses.
• The president of Grant MacEwan
University, David Atkinson,
confirmed in October that the
university is moving ahead
with plans to sell two satellite
campuses and expand its downtown
campus to become “Edmonton’s
• University of Windsor said it will
in the downtown core, to house the
school of social work and the Centre
for Executive and Professional
Development. The university would
also like to relocate its music and
visual arts programs to the downtown
Armouries building and move film
production to a former bus depot.
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