RRC and federal government butt heads
By Cody Zaporzan
A dispute over deadlines between the college and the federal government has halted construction on Red River College’s multi-million-dollar Exchange District campus expansion.
The federal government has frozen a $40.6 million contribution for RRC’s construction of the new applied learning centre in the Exchange District — if the dispute isn’t resolved, the college won’t get the funding.
On Tuesday, the college announced that it is putting construction of its new 100,000 square foot Innovation Centre on hold, as result of a disagreement with the federal government over what constitutes a reasonable timeline for competition of the project.
To receive the money, the college had agreed to complete construction by November 30, 2018.
According to RRC spokesperson Conor Lloyd, the main issue for RRC is that the agreement with the federal government was finalized near the end of June 2017, giving the college roughly 17 months to build the Innovation Centre.
Lloyd said that despite a significant and aggressive amount of design and construction work completed, it’s not physically possible to finish construction of the $95.4 million building before the deadline and the federal government has been unwilling to grant an extension.
“As a result, construction is on hold while the college continues to seek a resolution with the federal government,” said Lloyd.
Shovels are already in the ground at the site. Work already completed includes demolition of the old Metro Motors building at 325 Elgin Avenue, consultations with more than 100 user groups, meetings with architects to refine blueprints and various approvals from the city about traffic flows.
The Innovation Centre will connect to the newly-renovated heritage building at 319 Elgin Avenue.
According to the Manitoba Historical Society, the heritage building was built in 1914 and the lower two floors housed the Scott Fruit Company. The city added it to the Buildings Conservation List with a Grade III ranking. The designation prevents all demolition, removal, alteration and repairs to the building without the approval of the city’s heritage building committee.
The federal government’s $40.6 million was originally contributed as part of the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, an up-to $2 billion program to replace aging university and college infrastructure across Canada.
The program covers up to half of a project’s eligible costs. The post-secondary institutions can then fundraise the remaining costs from its provincial or territorial government, private donors or pay the remaining itself.
According to Karl Sasseville, Press Secretary for the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, the fund was launched in April 2016 as a temporary program to generate immediate short-term economic activity, while supporting longer-term innovation. Originally, projects were required to be completed by April 30, 2018.
“Recently, the program initiated a process whereby projects can apply for an extension to November 30, 2018, in response to unforeseen delays in the construction process. This extension remains consistent with the original objectives of the program,” said Sasseville.
RRC’s Innovation Centre was announced in April 2017 with strong business and community support. It would bring more than 1,200 additional students, staff and faculty to the college’s Exchange District campus. The site is across the street from RRC’s Princess Street building.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained the paragraph “The Projector has reached out to the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development, Heritage and Downtown Development for more information on the college’s difficulties getting approval for renovating 319 Elgin Avenue.” — This is factually incorrect. The City of Winnipeg quickly approved renovations of the property. The earlier story also said the federal government pulled the funding — instead, it’s been frozen until the dispute is resolved.