Reporter: Shane MacDonald
Steps are being taken, priorities are being set, and Durham College is making the replacement of the Simcoe building its top priority as part of its growth plan.
A press release on March 12 announced the plan to replace the building, located on the west side of Simcoe Street between Conlin Road and Commencement Drive, with a 124,000-square-foot, four-storey building, to meet increasing demand for post-secondary education in the region.
The current 72,000-square-foot Simcoe building was built in 1967 and served as one of the main structures when the college first opened. Today it houses classrooms, a cafeteria, the Aboriginal centre and Outreach Services.
“It’s lived its life cycle and needs to be replaced,” said president of Durham College, Don Lovisa.
According to Lovisa, the new building will have greater capacity for the future needs of the college and it will get rid of an old building that would end up costing the school in the long term.
“The use of our land has become so important, to have a single-storey building on a piece of land just doesn’t make any sense any more,” said Lovisa. “You need to build multiple stories so you’re utilizing the land better.”
Durham College is among the fastest-growing colleges in Ontario and projections continue to show that. In 2013, the college achieved its enrolment target of 10,000 full-time students two years ahead of schedule.
The new building would help to meet space needs, allow the creation of new innovative learning environments, and non-traditional classrooms, and address the issue of an aging building.
Spaces will be designed to accommodate the needs of traditional and online, or hybrid, methods of education with spaces for third party and entrepreneurial opportunities.
“There is a large demand for business, small and medium-sized businesses primarily, to work with the college. This provides a little space to do that,” said Lovisa.
The new building would also include a credit transfer centre to meet the demand of the changing post-secondary education landscape.
“The province of Ontario invested $74 million over five years into developing more credit transfers between colleges and universities, universities and colleges, colleges and colleges, and universities and universities, making it easier for students to go in and out of programs,” said Lovisa. “Our government has invested heavily in it and we see a growing demand too, so we want to see the right office (to facilitate) students who want to go on to other studies.”
Currently, there is only one person responsible for credit transfers; the rest of the process is online.
“We want something more prominent so students can sit and they can explore pathways,” said Lovisa.
This is the first announcement of the plan to replace the Simcoe building, and building takes time. Consultation from the community, staff and students still has to be done, and that too, takes time.
“From the time we talked about the Centre for Food to the time we opened it was about 4 1/2 years. It takes a long time to take a vision and create it into something that is bricks and mortar,” said Lovisa.
Thousands of hours went into talking about the Centre for Food and the same will happen for the Simcoe building.
“You only get a few shots to build buildings,” said Lovisa. “You want to make sure it’s right, not right for today, but right for tomorrow.”
Lovisa says discussion around replacing the Simcoe building is 25 years old, but no concentrated plan was made, as they’ve done now, making it their top priority.
If the new building fulfils the needs the college has, Lovisa says it will put Durham College in a really good position to “continue to do the great things we’re doing now.”