Red River College shelves plans for $95M innovation centre
College says deadline imposed by federal government is impossible because of work needed on heritage building
Red River College has put the brakes on a $95.4-million expansion project at its campus in Winnipeg's Exchange District.
"RRC's decision to halt construction of the four-storey, 100,000-square-foot Innovation Centre is the result of a disagreement with the federal government over what constitutes a reasonable timeline for completion of the major infrastructure project involving a heritage building in downtown Winnipeg," said college spokesman Conor Lloyd.
To keep the federal contribution of $40.6 million, the project slated to be built on Elgin Avenue would have to be completed by Nov. 30. The funding agreement was signed and finalized at the end of June 2017, he said.
We still very much want to proceed, but we need to iron out this deadline disagreement with the feds first before we can carry on with construction, and we are very hopeful that we will find a solution- Conor Lloyd
Meeting that deadline is impossible because the project involves the renovation of a heritage building, which requires complex and time-consuming work, Lloyd said, adding that RRC has been working to get a deadline extension but the government has been unwilling to grant it.
As a result, the companies working on six tenders for the project have been told to discontinue, at least for the time being.
"We still very much want to proceed, but we need to iron out this deadline disagreement with the feds first before we can carry on with construction, and we are very hopeful that we will find a solution," said Lloyd.
Work already completed includes demolition of 325 Elgin (the former Metro Motors garage) and remediation of the site, consultations with more than 100 user groups, refining of the centre's design, site surveys and traffic flow studies.
"The Innovation Centre would allow Manitoba to keep pace with other provinces that are investing in similar centres and moving away from old-style classrooms and learning," Lloyd said.
"The centre's focus is on innovation, entrepreneurship and collision space — creative interactions between students, faculty, business, applied research and the community."
The centre would bring more than 1,200 additional students, staff and faculty to the college. It also would be a significant expansion of RRC's Exchange District campus, which has included the restoration of several heritage sites and helped revitalize the neighbourhood, Lloyd said.
A spokesperson with federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains's office said the original pledge was part of the federal Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, first launched in 2016.
The program was meant to stimulate short-term economic activity and support long-term innovation and environmental projects.
Red River submitted an application for funds for the Innovation Centre prior to April 30, 2018, the federal spokesperson said.
"Recently, the program initiated a process whereby projects can apply for an extension to Nov. 30, 2018, in response to unforeseen delays in the construction process," a statement from Bains reads.
"This extension remains consistent with the original objectives of the program."