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Constructed in 1912, this lecture theatre is located on the University of Regina's old College Avenue campus. With plans to refurbish the campus, this room will be left in its original condition with minor upgrades to help preserve the university's collection of historical landmarks. Photo by Victoria Dinh

by Victoria Dinh

In November 2010, a project to upgrade the College Avenue campus was announced in the University of Regina’s 2011-2012 operating budget forecast. They titled it, “Major Capital Proposal: The College Avenue Campus Revitalization,” and said it would be funded with an estimated $67 million in federal, provincial, city and university grants, as well as donations.     


Fast-forward to 2014.


The new budget is $58 million and the proposal's title is more subdued: “Building Knowledge – the College Avenue Campus Renewal Project.” While $5 million in donations have been raised, the renewal is currently awaiting approval for a requested $25 million in provincial funding. According to the 2014-2015 operating budget forecast, the university will more than match the provincial contribution. The project will also set forth to raise a total $10 million in donations.


“I can't comment on the reduction as to why it was scaled from $67 million to $58 million. I can say that the $58 million is an estimate,” said Wanda Deschamps, associate vice president (development) of external relations at the U of R. “We have artist concepts. We don’t have architectural renderings. So, until the project is fully defined, we won’t be able to have a final number. But right now, the number we’re presenting in $58 million.”


U of R student Lucas McWilliams remembered his frequent class trips to Darke Hall in elementary and high school. “Nothing has changed since I was there 12 to 15 years ago. It’s ancient… It absolutely needs to be touched up,” said McWilliams. “You don’t think that you’re suddenly going to go through the floors or something, but you definitely feel like you’re stepping back into the ‘70s.”


McWilliams took his first class on the College Avenue campus this past semester. “All of the AV equipment is run out of what looks like wooden boxes stapled to the wall. I kind of laughed when I was helping the professor set up the computer because it looked like it plugged into the old switcher that you see people in ‘50s TV shows (use) to move phone calls between offices… It’s really, really bad,” he said.


As stated on the U of R’s website, after completion, the campus will be known as the University of Regina Leadership and Outreach Centre. The initial construction is estimated to take up to 30 months to build and renovate. This would include: 32 new renovated classrooms, a 75-seat lecture theatre, a 150-seat Conservatory recital hall, a 250 to 300-seat concourse, a 550-seat performance centre at Darke Hall, an art room for 20 to 25 students, a state-of-the-art music room for master classes, a laboratory for 16 to 20 students and a teaching space for summer camp programming.


Some of these rooms will be decked out with the latest technology to be transformed into what the website described as, “Smart Classrooms” or “Breakout Meeting Rooms.”


“Today’s learner expects fully wired classrooms, smart classrooms (and) classrooms that can conform to their needs, which are obviously at a much higher technical standard than they ever were (in the past),” said Deschamps.


But history lovers can rest assured: “The College building will basically stay the same; the footprint won’t change,” said Georgia Morgan, secretary to the director of the Centre for Continuing Education. The Centre, along with the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, is one of the U of R’s main programs that run out of the old campus.


Deschamps claims that in late 2013 the project has really upped its profile within the community through TV ads, radio ads, bus shelters, bus wraps and ads in the paper. “The community stakeholders have been really captured with the visuals… The point was to connect people and faces with the programming pillars delivered from the College Avenue campus,” she said.


As for the funding status on the project, Deschamps said, “We’re still in conversations with the City and, in the long term, we’re looking at the federal funding option as well… There has been an ask into two provincial budget cycles: last year’s and then an ask for this year’s. So we’ll see (what happens) after the provincial budget comes down on March 19.”

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