Feature Story Thursday, September 4, 2014
The University of the Fraser Valley "Plaza" is now open at Five Corners
Visitors check out the newly minted downtown campus last week.
t's been almost 2 years since dignitaries tore the paper off of the former Bank of Montreal building at Five Corners and what was to become the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) downtown campus.
Last Friday, UFV President Mark Evered, along with CEPCO, WALAS Concepts and Chamber of Commerce staff, were on hand for the unveiling of the new campus.
Even though there are only two classrooms, with the rest administration and rental space, the plan is to maximize the use with day and night time classes as well as on weekends with a 25-seat computer lab and a 36-seat lecture classroom and heavy emphasis on connectivity.
One of the classrooms is what they call an "E-Room" with assorted media including a projector and speakers podium.
"The UFV model is small classes and we've extended that to this facility as well. We want to make sure students get individual attention. So providing smaller spaces with technology we can see from here, it's all about mobility and connection these day," Evered told the Voice. "We know that students these days are carrying around in their pockets devices that will connect them to the world's knowledge and finding ways and finding ways of brining that world's knowledge into the curriculum, into the classroom, as well as providing opportunity for students to explore that world, first of all virtually and then we would hope physically."
Evered says the university is wide open to suggestions from the community as far as programming is concerned.
"We'll be offering the kinds of courses that will serve businesses in this region. Offering the kinds of training that will prepare students for work right here in Chilliwack. We know that we work in a globally interconnected economy. Whether it's banking, or tourism or the small business on the farm, the restauranteur that needs some help with accounting."
Evered admits that he hadn't been inside the building since the university's announcement that they would be opening a campus there, but is very pleased with how the architects managed to capture what was great about the bank and turn it into a practical and student-friendly building.
He says the plan has benefited from the support of the City and in particular CEPCO who chipped in around $800,000 to help cover the cost of the refit. When added together with the price of the building, the amount of assistance totals somewhere in the range of $1.5 million.
The downtown campus was vital because Evered says they've been running over-capacity. He isn't sure what the demand will be like at first, but is positive it will build.
"We're running over-capacity. We continue to accept more students that we're funded for because we know there's a need and so spaces like this are vital to addressing that capacity," he said.
One of the reasons there is what seems to be an abundance of administration space is so that the building can be used to help serve the local business community by offering meeting rooms.
The university has formulated a unique plan to rent space to help cover costs, which include property taxes. Their first tenant is Community Futures.
"Of course, great partners like Community Futures are all about building vision, building community, building opportunities and great partnerships. It's providing them with space right in the heart of the community, right where the students are going to be so that its that kind of interaction.
Craig Toews, Executive Director Campus Planning and Resource Development describes the lobby area as "crush space".
This is fancy terminology for a common area where staff and students will do their socializing.
"We're quite deliberate around not just creating two classrooms here, but actually creating a space which would lend this building to events, celebrations and other things downtown and otherwise in Chilliwack that people could use for nothing," explains Toews. "For education it's going to be great, but it can also be used for other events and activities. That's where this space actually comes into play."
Toews insists that there is really very little administration space and the rooms are being leant to CEPCO and WALAS Concepts who will be conducting interviews.
"We've got a board room, which again we hope that downtown businesses is something that they can take advantage of, by small businesses that don't have a place to meet and have their business meetings.
When asked why Community Futures was a selected tenant, Toews says they approached the university to rent because they felt that they weren't meeting their rural mandate with the nearest offices in Abbotsford.
"It was right about the time we were designing this and we thought that it would be a very good partnership given the business focus of a lot of the activities happening," said Toews. "They help small businesses find financing so; a) it's a good fit, but b) they're paying rent which helps us offset the property tax for this location.
Parking is located behind the building off of Victoria Ave. It's free for the first three hours and we're told that after that the cost will be nominal. It should be noted that most of the courses will run 2 hours so parking will essentially be free for students unless they stay longer.
For more information about courses and programs offered at The Plaza, visit www.ufv.ca/ce
See previous Voice coverage here.
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