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Campus master plan: roadmap to a thriving future

Dec 14, 2016

The math is simple when the health of a university is measured by enrolment. A steadily growing student body paves the way to a solid future. But it’s not that simple, of course, neither to continue growing nor to accommodate that growth.

A look behind the scenes at the administration of a busy campus like The King’s University shows growth not only has to be managed but planned for and encouraged—far in advance.

 Identifying priorities to propel the student population toward 1,000 is a key focus in the Shared Vision 2020 strategic plan adopted by the King’s Board of Governors in March 2015.

 “We have a growing student body, so are we going to run out of space? How much can our current location accommodate growth?” says Ellen Vlieg-Paquette, vice president of administration and finance, also in charge of the overall campus master planning process.

Enter the new Campus Master Plan for King’s, which outlines inspiring new expansion possibilities and scenarios. The master plan promotes sustainability by finding ways to fully use existing infrastructure, as well as advocating LEED standards for new construction.

It all starts with seeing King’s as a campus, not just a building. This includes seeing the potential of the mostly empty south side of campus.

High on the list of priorities in the new master plan is an expansion of the science wing, to allow the creation of a Centre for Excellence in the Sciences, building on the strength, popularity, and growth of King’s natural and social science programs.

Other improvements include considerable renovations to the main interior space of King’s to create more room for elements of a student success centre, a better cafeteria, chapel, and other open study space. In the medium-to-long term, a new “learning commons” building on 50 Street would create classrooms, office space, a new library, and meeting rooms with a face to the community. And in the longer term—or sooner, depending on the potential for partnerships with various levels of government and perhaps private industry—a major new health and wellness centre with double gym, new fitness centre, and possibly even a café to be shared with the community. A 1,500- seat performance hall at some time in the future completes the dream, along with another residence building and a parkade.

Attention to minimizing environmental impact and nurturing or creating new green space are paramount through the plan.

“Our architect has said the current campus could accommodate 1,000 students. We just have to utilize the space more efficiently,” says Vlieg-Paquette. That means, for instance, that booking classrooms for classes during hours they currently sit empty could create additional capacity.

The last time King’s administrators and board developed or updated a campus master plan was in 2002. Since then, the challenge has grown to develop a campus that is ecologically responsible and innovative—and that will attract even more students. The goal is to make more effective use of King’s overall “footprint,” which is actually not much smaller than the original footprint for MacEwan University in downtown Edmonton.

The latest plan takes a multi-pronged approach. In addition to improvements already mentioned, the plan would upgrade the front entrance landscaping and parking areas, improving its curb appeal while making the area more efficient and sustainable. It also includes additions to academic space, starting with the expansion of the science wing, to encourage and deal with the increases in the student body from 750 students to 1,000, and as far into the future as 1,900 students in the medium term and 4,000 in the long term.

“Really living into our current facility— that’s the first priority,” says Vlieg-Paquette. “There’s still more than we can do to use this place more efficiently. And the second thing is to plan for the next expansion. It will take us some time to work with our support community and other resources.”

The vice president, who has been managing King’s finances since 1998, estimates King’s will need two to three years to identify funding from donors and other sources for the proposed facilities expansion.

Provincial funding accounts for 26 percent of the operating budget, but as an independent institution, King’s is not eligible for capital funding from the province of Alberta. This made a recent infrastructure grant from the Canadian government for $300,000 a cause for celebration.

“We need the extra space after we reach 1,000 students, and we need to make plans and seek support well before we reach that point,” Vlieg-Paquette says.

Part of King’s immediate to mid-term plan is to retire existing debt. The newer North Academic Building opened in 2006, but there’s still $2 million owed on it. While King’s does plan for debt reduction in the annual operating budget, deficits in recent years have hampered paying it down.

“If we’re looking for King’s to set an example for good financial stewardship, it includes debt reduction,” says Vlieg-Paquette.

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