Vancouver's Emily Carr University unveils new campus

The pristine $122.6 million campus was unveiled Tuesday, with speculation about the future of Granville Island, the university's old site.

Granville Island left with vacancy and ambitious plans to redevelop site

The Emily Carr University of Art and Design is located at East 1st Ave, just off Great Northern Way in Vancouver, BC. (Emily Carr University)

It's like a giant white canvas waiting for students to leave their mark.

Emily Carr University of Art and Design unveiled its pristine $122.6 million campus in Vancouver's east side Tuesday that leaves behind a gaping hole at one of the city's top tourist destinations, Granville Island, where it had leased space since 1980.

The white, airy building features an Aboriginal gathering place that reflects the school's priorities, which Emily Carr president Ron Burnett said includes reconciliation with Indigenous people. A 3D printing studio provides the innovation required for the future economy, he says.

A lecture hall at the new Emily Carr University campus in Vancouver. (Emily Carr University)

"Emily Carr is as focused on high tech and industry development as it is on the visual arts, the fine arts, the traditional disciplines. It's really important to state this clearly, we would not be a culture or a society without the arts," Burnett said.

Premier John Horgan attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and said the site, that was supported by the previous Liberal government, is a legacy that will last generations and contribute to the development of the province's technology sector.

"This new campus is equipped to open up even more opportunities for young people right across the world so they can come here and learn to use their creative skills and drive innovation and our economy," Horgan said.

Collaborative space

The university owns the new site, which is also shared with the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the B.C. Institute of Technology.

Burnett said the idea to collaborate with the other institutions and share the land located near major transit hubs in the city began while he met with then-UBC president Martha Piper in 2001.

"We envisioned these lands as part of an overall shared facility that would celebrate the creative and extraordinary knowledge that we share among our institutions," he said.

Emily Carr University was founded as the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts in 1925. (Emily Carr University)

Changes to Granville Island

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Granville Island's operator, released a report with a vision to redevelop the site by 2040. It included adding better access to transit and pedestrian paths, expanding the public market and non-food vendors, and creating an arts hub that would maintain and build upon the atmosphere left by the university.

CMHC spokesman at Granville Island Scott Fraser said a committee tasked with implementing its vision, that would involve determining the costs of different projects and setting goals for completing them, will be announced in the coming weeks.

The university has vacated approximately 200,000 square feet of space in two buildings on Granville Island. (Cliff Shim/CBC)

The university's lease on the space officially ends in December, and another entity has been confirmed to take over the site.

That transition will not likely begin until the new year, Fraser said, once crews can also assess what infrastructure needs to be changed to transform the space from a school to a collection of artist studios, galleries, restaurants and other office spaces.

"We're right at the very beginning of a really exciting time for Granville Island, and people are always like, 'what's happening next' and unfortunately for now all I can say is be patient," he said, adding new changes can be expected as early as next spring.