The ribbon on Selkirk College’s Tenth Street residence was cut on Monday morning, officially ushering in a new era of student life in Nelson.
“This is a huge day,” Selkirk president Angus Graeme told the Star just after the official ceremony ended. “We have known for quite some time that our enrolments in Nelson have been hindered by the lack of affordable housing. Having a 100-bed residence on the bus route in a nice community, we think is going to improve our enrolments into the future. It also creates more of an enriched and full student life. The students are all together and they can make friendships and enjoy the whole experience.”
In a flurry of construction activity last summer, crews were able to get the $7 million facility opened just in time for the September semester. Though the project is having the finishing touches applied, Graeme said when the final numbers are crunched there will be no dipping into red numbers.
“We had to be patient,” said Graeme, who added they waited until the end of the term to cut the ribbon because they were simply too busy. “It has gone over time, but we have brought it in on budget.”
Some of the challenges faced during the project was the nature of recycling a building, the LEED certification standards and the Nelson Hydro geothermal project. Despite the issues, Graeme said everybody who worked on the project is going to get paid.
“We were learning as we were going… it’s been a big skill developer,” he said.
“I know there were concerns around town that it was going over budget and maybe there were going to be people that were not going to be paid. One thing my team and I have been absolutely adamant about is that everybody is going to be paid.”
At the Monday ribbon cutting, dignitaries from Selkirk College, the City of Nelson, the Columbia Basin Trust, the provincial government and the federal government were on hand for speeches and a tour.
“I think the key element to this project coming together is the partnerships,” Mayor John Dooley said during his speech.
Graeme explained that the big push to revamp the decaying old dorms came in 2009 when college officials were in discussion with the federal government’s Western Economic Diversification Community Adjustment Fund. With Ottawa looking for shovel ready projects to spark the economy during the depth of the recession, Selkirk put together a proposal in 48 hours and sent it off. The fund approved $3.45 million which acted as the catalyst.
The provincial government — through the Ministry of Advanced Education — then came on board with a matching $3.45 million and the Columbia Basin Trust kicked in $100,000. The City of Nelson is also recognized as being instrumental in the process.
“Our investment in the Tenth Street residence at Selkirk College promoted jobs and growth locally and has helped bolster the economy of Nelson,” said Ron Cannan, the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country who attended the ceremony on behalf of the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. “By investing in infrastructure, our government is creating the right conditions for Canada’s continued economic success.”
Built in the late 1960s, the residence buildings were in use until the early 2000’s when it was abandoned and sat empty. With vacancy rates a constant battle for students who move to the community from out of area, city leaders had long tried to solve the puzzle of bringing that part of Fairview back to life.
“That stimulus program really worked for this community and this is proof of that,” Dooley said. “Selkirk College is a major employer and a major stimulus for our economy. It’s a great way educate and develop our local students along with students from all across Canada who come here.”
The fully furnished residences cost students between $460 and $550 per month. There are single rooms and shared rooms. The residences are actually a revenue generating line item for Selkirk College which also makes the rooms available for rent by the night/week during the four months students are not attending full-time.
For a history of the residence head to the Selkirk College website.