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New UFV campus ready for September opening

Craig Towes, UFV’s director of campus planning, stands in the new university campus which features natural wood and glass ceilings.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Craig Towes, UFV’s director of campus planning, stands in the new university campus which features natural wood and glass ceilings.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

The move to UFV’s new $45 million Chilliwack campus is underway this week as officials prepare for the arrival of students in September.

The finishing touches on the new campus project — a mix of renovations to the former military engineering school and new building construction — will likely continue over the next couple of months.

“We’re at the tail-end of construction,” Craig Toews, campus planner, told The Progress Tuesday, but moving the old campus on Yale Road to the new site at the Canada Education Park is a “major project” in itself.

On Friday, VIPs like Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto and Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl, will join UFV president Mark Evered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new campus.

“It’s a phenomenal facility,” an obviously elated Evered said Wednesday. “It’s our opportunity to reach the state-of-the-art facility for the kinds of programs we’re establishing in Chilliwack.”

And the new campus is just the start of a “master plan” that envisions further building projects over the next 30 years.

“This is really just the start of development on the whole 85 acres,” Evered said.

He’s also confident that consolidating UFV’s Chilliwack facilities — the new campus is just a short walk from the existing $21-million Trades and Technology Centre - will lead to “synergies” from which the university will find new ways to serve the Fraser Valley.

“I think we’ve done some marvelous things already bridging trades with business,” Evered said, referring to the ability for UFV students certified in a trade to also earn academic credits for a business degree.

“We’re going to see new disciplines emerge,” he said, including new developments in health sciences that will lead the way to healthier lifestyles.

Evered envisions new programs in food safety and food security and in dietary approaches to managing health problems

“Clearly, what we eat is critical to our health,” he said.

UFV’s health sciences faculty is now located at the new campus, but now its programs are going beyond nursing and dentistry and into kinesiology with a state-of-the-art “human performance” centre.

UFV’s soccer team may move from Abbotsford to the Chilliwack campus as a result of the kinesiology program.

Evered said the “town square” design of the main building, with classrooms and labs surrounding a central meeting place, also “encourages people to draw together.”

He envisions students from the nearby trades centre mingling there with students from the academic side, and the “synergies” that may develop as a result.

“It’s those kinds of synergies ... that often lead to exciting new developments,” he said.

UFV’s challenge is to overcome the current shortfall in government funding that has led to a cap on student enrolment, and to anticipate what kind of job-training Fraser Valley students will be looking for in the future.

The campus also includes an “Aboriginal Gathering Place” that is part of the university’s commitment to making UFV “a more welcoming place” to students from First Nations.

Meanwhile, the sale of the old campus on Yale Road, although a prime location in downtown Chilliwack, appears to have been delayed by a depressed commercial and residential real estate market.

Toews said there are currently a number of different proposals for the 27-acre property on the table, but at the moment there is “no wonderful sale news” to report.

“All sorts of pressures are really undoing that whole process,” he said.

Proceeds from the sale are part of the funding for the new campus, but “bridging financing” has been obtained in the interim.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

twitter.com/paperboy2

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