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Don't expect a new Cap U campus for at least 10 years

Economic meltdown delays plans for a new Capilano Squamish Campus

It could be 10 years before a new Capilano Squamish Campus is built in the downtown core because of the global economic meltdown.

"With the economic meltdown we don't know at this point when we will see a new campus in the downtown. The reality is we are in a different world than we were a year ago," said Casey Dorin, Capilano University Dean of Tourism and Howe Sound programs.

In October, Capilano University purchased 1.87 hectares (4.64 acres) of downtown waterfront land near the estuary that was formerly owned by BC Rail. The acquisition of the land is part of Capilano University's long-term plan to create a new campus in Squamish.

It is a plan the District of Squamish continues to support.

"The District of Squamish has been very supportive of the plan to move the Squamish campus to the downtown core and I see no reason why we would not continue to be supportive as options are sought," said Mayor Greg Gardner.

Capilano University's current campus is located on 4.45 hectares of land adjacent to Highway 99. Dorin admits the current building is running at full capacity and Squamish's need for higher education will continue to grow.

Originally the plan was to get something built in time for the 2010 Winter Games in order to leverage opportunities for residents and students said Dorin.

"We've missed that window and now everything has changed," Dorin said. "A new building will take much longer than we hoped but we are still exploring options and having discussions with eye toward private and public partnerships."

Regionally, Capilano University is the only public post-secondary institution from Deep Cove to Mt. Currie north of Pemberton. According to Dorin, the region has the highest per capita rate in B.C. of people interested in degree programs.

"We know that Squamish is going to grow and we wanted to be ahead of the curve. Squamish is right at the linchpoint of growth and will be a very different urban centre in 15 years," Dorin said.

Dorin said the university was looking ahead because in 10 years, there will be no property left in the downtown core to purchase.

"The first step was securing the land and the next is to construct a 20,000-square-foot building but we don't see that happening in the next five years," Dorin said. "When we are ready for a new campus, the land will be waiting."

The long-term plan is to create a facility in the heart of the downtown core that will become an economic driver in the region. If Savannah, Georgia is any indication, the plan works. The community is one of few to employ the downtown core model.

"Savannah has a university in the downtown core that started with 17 students and ballooned into 17,000," Dorin said. "This university is buying up the downtown and creating an unbelievable economic development story."

While plans for a new building are many years away, Dorin said Capilano University is exploring options to start construction sooner.

"It would be exciting to get something going but it is a challenge because the private sector is struggling. We are continuing to discuss future plans and exploring options," Dorin said."

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