New $66M Fanshawe building aims to connect students with employers

Located in the former Kingsmills department store, Fanshawe College's new $66-million building aims to serve students while getting more feet on the street in London's downtown core.

Builders kept elements from old Kingsmills building, including original safe, and portrait of Wilf

A new pastry kitchen ready for students at Fanshawe's new downtown building. (Brenden Dixon)

The culinary arts students at Fanshawe College's new downtown building will probably train in kitchens far better than the ones they'll find at their first restaurant job. 

Located in the former Kingsmills department store at 130 Dundas St. west of Richmond, the $66-million building features natural light, large open spaces and state-of-the-art teaching kitchens. 

"This building is incredible," said Fanshawe president Peter Devlin during a special tour for media this week. "The most special thing that will happen here is the teaching and learning for 1,600 students. We can't wait to welcome them."

The cathedral-sized atrium at Fanshawe's new downtown building located inside the former Kingsmills department store. (Brenden Dixon)

The building spans six floors and 114,000 square feet and will house Fanshawe's Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts school and its Information Technology school. 

In addition to the 25 labs which include computer labs and kitchens, the Dundas Street location includes a restaurant (Chef's Table) where shoppers can sample the students' work. 

There's even a mixology room where student desks are actually well stocked bars, complete with sinks. 

A fourth-floor terrace looks north over the city and visitors at the entrance are greeted by a seven-metre high "living wall" of some 200 different plant varieties. 

The building also includes administration offices so students won't have to trek over to Oxford Street campus to change a class or see a counsellor. 

Natural sunlight fills most of Fanshawe's glassy new building. (Brenden Dixon)

Devlin said moving the culinary arts and info tech schools downtown was a strategic move. 

"The students will be in the downtown core next to businesses and industries that need our graduates," he said.  

Links to Kingsmills' history

Although little is left of the Kingsmills store, a few accents were retained to reflect its history. 

The store's original safe has a place on the lower floor. 

It ended up in the basement after falling from a higher floor during a fire in 1932. 

Kingsmills' old pneumatic tubes system on display under the stairway at Fanshawe's new Dundas location. (Brenden Dixon)

A section of the vacuum tube system, which staff once used to transport paper and money around the store, has been kept behind display glass. 

There's also a portrait of Wilfred 'Wilf' Hornick, a longtime employee of the old store, on one of the furniture department's original freight elevator doors. Yellow brick walls and wood beams from the Kingsmills years were also kept and reflected in the new building's design. 

The store's old-fashioned, manual elevator, is now a change room in the building's apparel shop.


Contractors were still applying the finishing touches, but Gilbert said the building will be ready when fall classes resume on Tuesday. 

This is one of 25 high-tech student learning spaces at Fanshawe's newest building. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)