Assiniboine Community College’s North Hill campus has massive potential, but will require millions of provincial dollars and years to get there.
Transforming the former Brandon Mental Health Centre into a vibrant post-secondary learning institution has been slow moving.
Although the campus so far has given ACC’s culinary arts, and trades and technology programs room to expand, the college will need to stay on the province’s radar to complete its relocation project.
The final phase of the project is the relocation of its main campus on Victoria Avenue East into the North Hill’s Parkland Building.
During his stop in Brandon earlier this week, Premier Greg Selinger said he believes the project is "going in the right direction," but admits some buildings on campus need work.
"Some of the buildings up there, they are old, and they are large … they’re not easily adapted to modern educational purposes," Selinger told the Sun. "We have to take a look at how we can preserve the … heritage elements of those buildings, but at the same time have modern education facilities."
Once the relocation project is completed, ACC president Mark Frison said the North Hill campus could help the college grow programs in power engineering, instrumental technician, health and safety as well as civic engineering technology.
"I’d certainly be keen to see them step up in the near term and look at the next project," Frison said in regards to the province, adding buildings on the North Hill are managed through Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation. "There’s never enough money and that’s the challenge ... making sure that the province continues to invest in the site."
Frison said a steering committee is working on a site plan for the North Hill, which is expected to be completed near the end of this year.
Receiving the province’s endorsement to go ahead with the site plan, Frison said, "was a good vote of confidence," and help from Manitoba Housing for plans for future student-led housing on the site "has been a real help and a real move forward."
He believes the best route to provincial funding is by appealing to Manitoba’s labour market demands.
Selinger said the province has been working closely with Frison on plans for ACC’s future on the North Hill. Selinger said Frison’s plans are "focused on where the needs for training are in the community, what the opportunities for jobs are."
"The Assiniboine Community College is right in our wheelhouse for what we want to do on skills in Manitoba. They feel they have a lot to offer. I’m personally pumped about the possibilities," Selinger said. "We’re looking at all our institutions to make sure they’re appropriately geared for the needs of the future."
Despite the four-storey Parkland Building’s faded red brick exterior, the inside has been kept relatively well-preserved.
The building has been empty since the BMHC closed, but its heat has always been kept on.
"As a result, it’s preserved everything," Frison said, adding, "you may not be able to use the entire building."
Being that the building was built in 1912, sections of the walls inside have chipped away, chunks of ceiling are missing and flooring has discoloured over time.
Getting the building ready for students and staff could take tens of millions of dollars and several more years, Frison said.
"It would still be a number of years before students would be studying on this campus in a program that’s not currently offered here."