Years in the making, and one semester overdue, school starts next month in downtown London for one of Ontario’s biggest community colleges. Kelly Pedro previews the opening of Fanshawe College’s new downtown campus and the bounce it’s expected to give the core.
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Better later than never.
When students start classes at Fanshawe College’s new downtown London campus Jan. 6, the core is counting on a burst of youthful energy.
Fanshawe’s downtown expansion marks the first big public investment in the downtown since the opening of the John Labatt Centre, now the Budweiser Gardens arena, a dozen years ago.
The college’s Centre for Digital and Performance Arts campus, on Dundas St. near Talbot St., is opening one semester later than originally planned, but retailers and services are banking on the spinoffs such a large — and regular — injection of students might bring.
“We’re anticipating we’ll get our spillover from there on a daily basis. Most of our eateries are gearing up for it,” said Bob Usher, general manager of Covent Garden Market that’s just a few steps from the new campus.
“We’re looking forward to it in a very big way.”
The opening of the campus has been a long time coming for downtown retailers, some of whom were disappointed the campus didn’t open sooner, he said.
More good news is expected soon, though, with Fanshawe on the verge of putting the final touches to a deal under which it would buy Market Tower and further expand its downtown profile.
“Every great downtown now has a university or a college campus in it,” said Downtown London’s Janette MacDonald.
When the University of Waterloo opened its pharmacy school in downtown Kitchener, the move energized its downtown and also encouraged investment from outside the city. Similarly, Hamilton-based McMaster University has opened a Waterloo campus of its medical school there.
Fanshawe’s downtown campus could be the sort of game-changer the city experienced in 2002 after Budweiser Gardens, then the John Labatt Centre, opened and drew an avalanche of new restaurants and shops to the core, along with big-name concerts and national and international sports events.
Council offered Fanshawe as much as $20 million in early 2010 to help the college buy downtown buildings for a core campus.
The digital and performance arts campus will house 400 students in creative programs, such as 3-D animation and character design, interactive media design and production, technical costume design and theatre arts.
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- Total enrolment: 17,000 full-time, 26,000 part-time students
- London main campus on Oxford St. E.
- New downtown digital and performing arts campus
- Satellite campuses in Simcoe, St. Thomas, Woodstock, Tillsonburg
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Downtown campus by the numbers
$40M Approx. cost
829K LED lights on its wrap-around outdoor sign
50K square feet
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What they said
“The arrival of Fanshawe has been met with a flurry of activity on Dundas St: at one point I counted 10 nearby buildings under renovation.”
— Joel Adams, chairperson, MainStreet London board and co-founder of Hacker Studios, a downtown startup hub
“It’s going to bring more students, more faculty and therefore more spinoff businesses to service (them) . . . It just really adds to the downtown ambiance and economy.”
— Janette MacDonald, executive director, Downtown London
“It’s great for all of downtown, it puts more feet . . . (and) a younger population on the street. We’re welcoming them.”
— Bob Usher, GM, Covent Garden Market
“We know that having these students here will have a significant impact on downtown.”
– Fanshawe College president Peter Devlin
“That’s going to transform the look, the feel, the excitement around downtown London.”
— Mayor Joe Fontana