VIU campus plan moving forward

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island University officials still await funding to proceed with Campus Master Plan.

Vancouver Island University officials are still awaiting funding to proceed with many of the priorities laid out in the campus master plan.

The plan, which will guide the next 50 years of building, educational programs and everything else the university does at its Nanaimo campus, was approved in 2009 and since then, just one of the capital goals – relocation and expansion of the campus transit exchange – has been achieved.

The plan calls for replacement of more than half of the buildings on campus, centralizing academic services in a densified core, filling in some of the surrounding areas with student villages and creating a wildlife corridor.

At the time it was approved, university officials believed it would cost upwards of $80 million to fully implement and Ric Kelm, the university’s executive director of infrastructure and ancillary services, said staff are working hard to secure funding.

“It’s the funding part of it that’s the challenge, as is with most jurisdictions these days,” he said. “We’re actively working with the [province] to see how we can move forward on priorities. We would have liked to have been a bit further ahead in terms of our capital priorities.”

Kelm said the transit exchange project, completed in 2010 with funding from the Regional District of Nanaimo, has helped regional transit increase service to and from the university.

The former entrance was on Fifth Street, where bus drivers sometimes waited 10 minutes to pull out onto the road, whereas Fourth Street has a controlled traffic light.

“It’s a transit hub now, one of the main ones in Nanaimo,” said Kelm.

Top of the list for other capital priorities include a new science and health services building, investment in information technology systems, and developing a strategic plan for the faculty of trades and applied technology.

University officials are also exploring commercial and market housing development opportunities for both students and the public on campus, which could lead to significant endowment funds for the institution, and using green energy sources.

Other capital priorities include a new gymnasium with a health and wellness centre that includes a medical clinic, replacement of trades facilities and a university centre that would replace the current cafeteria and student services facilities.

“Most of our buildings are getting close to 40 years old and they were designed with a college mentality,” said Kelm.

Andrew Tucker, the city’s director of planning, said the campus is one of five designated urban nodes in the city, a term used for areas where high density and mixed use is supported.

He said having more people live on campus cuts down on the number of cars on the road and promotes a more active lifestyle.