WLU, City of Milton plan for new campus

The only thing delaying the realization of a Laurier campus in Milton is the province’s monetary blessing, according to university and town officials.

Approval from the province will take some time however, as Laurier’s proposal submitted to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) in June of this year is being considered as part of a larger plan on long-term spending for Ontario.

Tyler Charlebois, spokesperson for MTCU, in confirming that they received Laurier’s proposal as a priority item in the university’s 10-year plan further explained, “It’s not under our ministry, or our minister. It’s under the Ministry of Infrastructure [who] is leading the process.”

“It’s not the traditional [approval] process,” he said. “It’s going in to the pot with all of the other priorities that are coming in from all the other colleges and universities as well as the many organizations across the province.”

Bob Chiarelli, minister of infrastructure, will be holding consultations with institutions across the province to discuss the priorities they have submitted in order to reach a decision.
The province’s long-term infrastructure plan is scheduled to be ready in 2011.

Laurier’s proposal

Since entering into a formal memorandum of understanding in March 2008, Laurier and Milton have been exploring whether the school setting up shop on a 150-acre piece of land south of the 401 could be beneficial for both parties.

The plan is to have the campus embedded within a much larger 450-acre location that is set to become the Milton Education Village (MEV).

In addition to a Laurier campus, the project would include the construction of a business and research park, a residential development and retail space.

Currently, the project has four partners: The Regional Municipality of Halton, the Town of Milton, Laurier and Mattamy Homes.

Milton’s Mario Belvedere has been the chief administrative officer in the town for the past 11 years and has seen this project through since the beginning. He said all the partners are ready to go; it’s just the matter of a green light from Queen’s Park.

“We’re really hopeful that the province will be as excited as we are about this,” said Belvedere.

One reason for optimism, according to Belvedere, is the virtual completion of a land-swap between the town and current owner Mattamy Homes, a prominent contractor in the area.
Mattamy is attached as the developer of the MEV’s residential area and donated the land to the town in exchange for five acres of prime real estate on Milton’s Main Street.

Belvedere maintains that when the exchange is officially completed later this fall, all partners will still be waiting on one party – the Ontario Government.
Laurier President Max Blouw explained that the regional government can cover certain costs including roads and plumbing, but the province has been asked to provide capital backing for library, classroom and office amenities.

“One of the key decisions to be made is the decision by our provincial government, that yes, they would support a campus here and then the question would be: To what extent? And how much does that intersect with how much the regional government is to be involved?” he explained.

Just how crucial is this provincial backing to the project? Belvedere laid it out, saying, “The impetus of the entire MEV is the funding through Laurier.“

“Once the funding for Laurier gets done we get to the servicing of the site … there is a research park just north and south of the university site to be constructed in sequence with the university that we would proceed with independently anyway. But it would be really pushed by funding decisions which would then drive servicing decisions.”

It isn’t Brantford

There were initial rumblings over a prospective Milton campus because of the perceived isolation of the site.

But people close to the project such as senior advisor on Laurier’s Multi-Campus Planning Committee David Docherty, counter that when everything is said and done, Milton will be very accessible.

He cites the infrastructure currently under development including the widening of Tremaine Road, which will connect to the 401.

Combine that with planned GO Transit service, the residential development and a proposed hospital facility, and you have a campus that would be arguably more accessible than Brantford from Waterloo or Toronto.

Deadlines

The memorandum between Laurier and Milton is set to expire in March 2011, but both sides say that’s not an issue.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t renew it. We have a very strong relationship with the community now…there’s been a lot of time and energy devoted to thinking about what this looks like to make sure the intersection of the university and the community would be optimized rather than be a point of tension,” said Blouw.

Belvedere waves it off as well: “That’s a rubber stamp to renew that, because really, we’re just waiting for the government of Ontario to get their funding priorities in order.”
At this time, the ministry has no timeline for the completion of their 10-year capital plan or when the list of accepted proposals will be announced.

–with files from Linda Givetash

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