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Augustana unveils early plans for the future

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

Local residents check out initial mock ups for the Augustana Campus Long Range Development Plan Amendment at an open house at the university in Camrose on  Sept. 28, 2017. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian

Local residents check out initial mock ups for the Augustana Campus Long Range Development Plan Amendment at an open house at the university in Camrose on Sept. 28, 2017. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian

The public got a sneak peek at the what the future may look like at the University of Alberta-Augustana campus last week. 

The university unveiled the preliminary update to the long-range development plan on a series of placards at an open house on Thursday night, and encouraged the neighbourhood to come out and contribute to the process. 

While this plan does not get into the precise plans of future buildings, it lays the ground work for the types of facilities that should be on the university’s radar over the next 15 years. Most importantly, the plans called for sustainability and ensuring the campus evolves and interacts with the local community. 

It has been a nine-month process to get to this point already with consultations with community leaders, the City of Camrose, and campus community. 

“We thought it’s about time to show what we have heard and what we think are some of the things that are important to this community and how we can plan a campus holistically, rather than just doing it on a project-by-project basis and looking at the 11 planning principals that are going to help guide us,” said University of Alberta Ben Louie. 

City of Camrose director of planning and development Aaron Leckie said the level of coordination with the City is beyond what the university is required to do, but is an example of the positive working relationship they have with one another. 

“It’s always important to have the university as a partner with the city, they are a big player in the downtown area and specifically the Augustana campus,” said Leckie. “One thing we were looking for is a lot of continuity and integration with the adjacent residents … it’s been nice that we’ve been on the same page and I think it will be a positive result for the adjacent residents.” 

The city is going through its own long-term development plans and the fact they are both going through similar processes makes it easier to ensure everyone has similar goals and that needs are being met. Existing City plans may have to be altered, however, to adapt to the growing future needs of the university. 

“We rely so heavily on the goodwill and financial support of the businesses and individuals in and around Camrose,” said associate dean Karsten Mündel. “It would make no sense for us not to take Camrosians’ opinions into account when we are planning for the future.” 

The current plan was put together more than 10 years ago and since then there have been several major investments and facilities built, including the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre and the Forum building. There are several needs the university has, especially if it wants to continue to grow, including new student residences and new athletics facilities. 

For student housing the entire concept of dorms has changed in recent years from shared rooms crammed into an apartment style building, into suits and smaller multi-unit buildings. The idea is to foster a more conducive learning environment. 

“Lots of our students live out in the community … but we actually pride ourselves on being a residential campus,” said Mündel. “Seventy per cent of our incoming class lives on campus and we’d love for that to continue.” 

The current athletics facilities are old and small and do not quite meet the needs of a modern university program. They are on par with a high school gym. They are in a state that while they are still able to host provincial championships for basketball and volleyball, nationals are out. 

It is an opportunity where they may be able to partner with the city on a shared facility. 

“The City is always open to opportunities to work with other organizations … in Camrose if it makes sense for us,” said Leckie, noting those discussion have not taken place for specific future projects. “The Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Centre is a perfect example of that, it made sense for the campus, it made sense for the City and we were able to gain a lot of efficiencies through the mutual support of that project.” 

The plan is much more than bricks and mortar as it takes into account all aspects of student life, from transportation to learning facilities, recreation, sustainability and taking full advantage of all the land they have available to them. 

“We’re so blessed with a campus being on a plateau surrounded by ravines and Jubilee Park,” said Louie. “We think it is important to integrate all of the open spaces into thinking about developing the campus with buildings. Otherwise we will just look at land as a development site rather than how buildings and site work with environment, the view corridor, the natural spaces that make this such a special campus. That to me is the joy of doing this campus plan, to integrate. The last campus plan did not spell out those ravines sites as open spaces, this plan clearly spells out that those are real assets and quality spaces that has to be integrated in our campus plan.” 

There will be future open houses and public consultations, the next one likely in November. 


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