If the proposal is approved and everything that follows goes according to schedule, Guelph could be home to a new Conestoga College campus as early as spring 2014.
The initial reaction to the plan by the City of Guelph’s Economic Development and Tourism Services was a positive one. The plan involves converting what was once one of the largest prisons in the province, before closing in 2001, into a new campus. It would be on York Road at the site of the old Ontario Reformatory prison, with the buildings taking up about 200,000 square feet and costing about $67 million to build or renovate.
“Guelph is one of the larger cities in Ontario that doesn’t really have a full-fledged college campus,” John Tibbits, president of Conestoga College, said in an interview with CTV News.
Talking to Spoke, Tibbits explained further. Currently talks are underway with the University of Guelph and the City of Guelph Chamber of Commerce.
Meetings are scheduled with MPP Liz Sandals, the federal MP and the Minister of Colleges before the proposal is handed in in about six weeks.
The current campus on Speedvale Avenue West is primarily apprenticeship program-based and is much smaller than the one planned, which is set to accommodate about 2,000 full-time students and 1,500 part-time students in the beginning.
“It’s exciting,” Tibbits said, because the site has about 1,100 acres. “The one we have now is only 120 acres,” he added. The new building will encompass some of the existing buildings and will also be added to.
The programs at the proposed new campus are expected to focus mainly on environmental, agricultural-food, alternative energy and advanced manufacturing.
The general manager of Guelph’s Economic Development and Tourism Services, Peter Cartwright, said the campus is consistent with the city’s economic development strategy. It is hoped funding for the project would come from the City of Guelph ($10 million), the Ontario government ($55 million) and from the college itself ($2.5 million).
“It doesn’t help that I’m almost finished school, but that’s great for future students who live in Guelph or close to Guelph,” said Mercedes Morgan, a second-year broadcast journalism student.
Another second-year broadcast journalism student, Shannon Gwynne, isn’t in favour. “I live in Guelph and there is already a campus there, mind you it’s nowhere near as big as Doon,” she said. “Guelph is already known as a university town and I think it should stay that way.”
However, the positive initial reaction from the Guelph Economic Development and Tourism Services department suggests that the campus is a possibility.
The building of the campus itself would create jobs in the area, and the program focuses are relevant to the present and forecasted future of the City of Guelph.