Red River College unveil plan for $95M Innovation Centre at Exchange District campus

Red River College's presence in Winnipeg's Exchange District is about to grow once again, thanks to the construction of a $95-million Innovation Centre.

Project will involve new building, renovations to Scott Fruit Company warehouse on Elgin Avenue

Red River College's Exchange District campus in downtown Winnipeg houses its business, creative arts, IT, hospitality and culinary arts programs. (CBC)

Red River College's presence in Winnipeg's Exchange District is about to grow once again, thanks to the construction of a $95-million Innovation Centre.

The new facility will be built on Elgin Avenue, across from the main downtown campus centre, in a refurbished three-storey warehouse and a newly constructed four-storey building.

The former Metro Motors garage will be torn down for the new construction while the Scott Fruit Company warehouse, a city-designated historic site, will be renovated.

Paul Vogt, president and CEO of Red River College, said the facility will bring together science, research and development, entrepreneurship, and student learning.

"Its a teaching facility, primarily, but the difference is that startups — companies — will come in with their business opportunities and challenges and they will be turned into assignments for the students," he said.

"So students will learn by doing."

An artist's rendering shows a design for the new Red River College Innovation Centre. (Red River College)
Red River College intends to rip down the former Metro Motors garage and build a four-storey innovation centre in its place. The three-storey warehouse will be renovated and connected to the new facility. (Google Street View)

"The college will use government and private-sector funding to develop the new facility, the first of its kind in Western Canada," says a release from Red River.

"The new Innovation Centre will attract an additional 1,200 students to the Exchange, stimulating economic development and further growth of the historic district."

Of the $95.4-million cost, $40.6 million will come from the federal government; the college will be responsible for raising the other $54.8 million.

Red River intends to launch a major fundraising campaign in the coming months.

"This is a major step forward for the future of Red River College," said Vogt. "It represents a modernization and a new approach to teaching and partnerships while still doing what RRC does best — providing job-ready grads to industry and helping to drive economic growth."

The provincial government is providing a loan guarantee to Red River College for the $54.8 so the project can begin as soon as possible. 

"This historic investment by the Government of Canada is a down payment on the government's vision to position Canada as a global centre for innovation," said Winnipeg Liberal MP Jim Carr, speaking on behalf of Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development.

"That means making Canada a world leader in turning ideas into solutions, science into technologies, skills into middle-class jobs and start-up companies into global successes."

The Scott Fruit Company building has housed a variety of businesses since it was built in 1914.

In addition to R.R. Scott's fruit business, it was occupied by clothing manufacturers, publishers and printers and a children's theatre company over the years, the Manitoba Historical Society's website says.

The Metro Motors annex was built in 1945.

Red River's Exchange District campus has grown over the past decade to include the former Union Bank Tower — now the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute — along with the Massey Building on William Avenue and the Roblin Centre, a series of buildings fronted by a facade of heritage structures along Princess Street.