When it opens in January in 82,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by engineering firm Stantec, the focus will be on business programming, primarily for about 1,000 international students.
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But enrolment could double within three years, prompting an expansion with a broader range of programming that could see the college eventually occupy about 200,000 square feet in the former shopping mall at King and Frederick streets.
\”We are a magnet for international students from all over the world,\” college president John Tibbits said following Fridays announcement at Kitchener City Hall.
\”We didnt want to get into some small satellite,\” he said. \”Theres a lot of services here, lots of food, cultural activities, and theres good public transit.\”
Tibbits said the college is funding the new campus itself, an investment that could total $20- to $30 million over 10 years.
Conestoga College has significantly branched out to neighbouring cities in the past, with campuses now in Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Brantford and Stratford.
The downtown project is the latest in a series of significant expansions in recent years that has seen Conestoga establish campus locations across Waterloo Region and beyond.
Conestoga College's new Kitchener campus will be moving into downtown's Kitchener Market Square in the coming months.
Founded in 1967, the college has branched out from its home base at the Doon campus on Kitcheners southern border, opening a $91-million, 260,000-square-foot Cambridge campus just across Highway 401 in 2011.
Over that time, the college plans to lease more vacant space in Market Square and add more programs and services.
Last fall, the school celebrated the grand opening of its Waterloo campus, a $58-million facility that enveloped the former University Heights Secondary School. It was named in honour of longtime president Tibbits.
Conestoga also has facilities in Guelph, Stratford, Ingersoll and Brantford. The school has more than 17,000 full-time students and more than 38,000 part-time students.
It had expected to join Wilfrid Laurier University at a new site in Milton, but those plans were upended last fall when a $90-million provincial funding pledge was withdrawn by the new Progressive Conservative government.
The desire to establish a downtown Kitchener presence has existed for years, Tibbits said. \”The problem years and years ago is that we didnt have the resources to do this.\”
\”We see a renewed focus in the city where it started, right in the heart of the community,\” he told an audience in the city hall rotunda. \”This new investment will be transformational.\”
Vrbanovic said the international campus will only add to the cultural vibrancy that already exists in the King Street East area, calling it \”the multicultural hub of Waterloo Region.\”
Fridays announcement breathes new life into Market Square, a downtown landmark that has seen the departure of two of its largest tenants in recent months.
GoodLife Fitness closed its gym at the end of the year; Nordia, which operated a 340-person call centre on the buildings top floor for 20 years, moved to a new location in Waterloo in April.
The 82,000-square-foot, two-level space formerly occupied by Stantec has been empty since the engineering firm moved to Waterloo in 2016. Several retail and food court units have also been empty for years.
Market Square was among eight commercial properties in Waterloo Region purchased by Toronto-based real estate investment and management firm Europro in 2017 in a deal valued at about $140 million.
\”We had a vision of the downtown, we had a vision of how we feel the future of Kitchener will be shaping, and we took a big bet buying the buildings.\”
The company is investing millions of dollars in renovations at several of the buildings. Significant work is required to get the Market Square space ready for Conestoga College.
The campus focus on international students may mean Market Square could look to attract groups and services that cater to new Canadians, suggested Craig Haney, vice-president of Europros Kitchener-Waterloo portfolio.
\”Market Square is very big. Theres lots of room to host a lot of amenities,\” he said. \”I think we can stop talking about Market Square as being a mall.\”
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Conestoga College President John Tibbits announced Friday that the college would be opening a new campus in Market Square in January 2020.
The campus will occupy 82,000 of the malls 250,000 square feet and will serve business programming to about 1,000 students. In the future, it will expand to teach other courses, as well.
Locating this campus in Downtown Kitchener creates fantastic opportunities for welcoming these new students in collaboration with our vibrant business community in the heart of our city, Vrbanovic was quoted in a press release.
The move will serve as a much-needed boost to the plaza, which has seen several anchor tenants leave over the past couple of years, most notably the GoodLife Fitness, which closed in December 2018.
Nordia, a call centre that had been in the square since 1999, had also planned to relocate its 350 employees to a new location by March.
It will also coincide with the residential building boom that downtown Kitchener has been enjoying, with over 2,000 new units planned within walking distance and thousands more accessible by LRT.
Im thrilled that Conestoga College has chosen Downtown Kitcheners Market Square as the site for their new campus, says Ward 10 Councillor Sarah Marsh in a press release. This investment into Downtown Kitchener will support and grow our local economy, and showcase Kitcheners dynamic and inclusive community to the world.
The college will not provide its own food vendors at the location, it says, in an effort to support local restaurants.
The mall was purchased by Europro in 2016. Last year, when the news about GoodLife emerged, vice president of business development Craig Haney hinted that the mall may shift from its former life.
Ten, 20, 30 years from now, this place will be different, he said at the time. It probably wont be a retail mall.