The final of three community open houses centred on the Brandon University Campus Master Plan was held on Thursday, marking the end to a six-month public consultation process.
It’s been an all-around positive experience, Brandon University Students’ Union president Nick Brown said during a break from the evening’s consultations on campus.
The consultants from Dialog listened to student ideas and concerns and clearly integrated them into the draft Campus Master Plan documents presented to the public on Thursday, Brown said, adding; "I felt they’ve been really easy to work with, and any questions or comments I’ve had they were able to address."
Students wanted their long-standing parking grievances addressed, and the draft Campus Master Plan includes underground parking options.
Students wanted a more walkable campus, and pedestrian corridors and green spaces are "a massive focus of the plan at this point," Brown said.
While Brown said that BU has already been working toward meeting students’ requests for more study spaces and lounging areas, the draft Campus Master Plan also makes allowances for these needs.
Thursday’s reveal of the latest draft Campus Master Plan highlights was the culmination of countless interviews and meetings with students, faculty and the community at large, BU vice-president (administration and finance) Scott Lamont said.
The end result will be the university’s first Campus Master Plan in 35 years, he said, adding that it has been far too great a gap between plans and that their current effort had to start pretty well from scratch.
From this point forward, he hopes to see the plan updated every five years.
Given how drastically he expects the university will change over the next 10 years, during which he anticipates the student population jumping from its current 3,300 students to 4,700, the plan should change with their ever-changing realities.
In addition to shedding more light on their main campus space, Thursday’s open house also provided some more insight regarding the future of BU’s expansion into the city’s downtown core.
Early February found the city’s elected officials vote in favour of selling two downtown properties to BU for $1 each (129 11th St. and 156 Ninth St.).
Joined by their recent purchase of the Strand Theatre, which they intend on tearing down, and an agreement in principle with Renaissance Brandon, they have six parcels of downtown land to work with along Princess Avenue between Ninth Street and 10th Street.
Described as "transformational" by Lamont, the development is anticipated to include student residences and seniors housing, along with offering classroom and commercial space.
Linking their new downtown space with their main campus a 10 or 15 minute walk to the west "continues to be a discussion," Lamont said, clarifying that the entire project remains a discussion.
During Thursday’s open house, Lamont said that his preferred pedestrian corridor to link the two spaces would be Lorne Avenue, which already has a bicycle lane that they could build off of.
But, there’s also Princess Avenue, he said, reiterating the fact that it’s an ongoing discussion.
From Thursday’s final of three open houses, consultants will take their latest round of public feedback to draft a final report and implementation plan, which is expected to be presented to the BU board of governors for approval in May.
Regardless of the BU Campus Master Plan’s status, Lamont said that they would continue to collect public insights to feed into the plan as they further integrate the university into the community as a whole.
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