Nov. 26, 2014
By Brea Bartholet
Officials said this week that the proposed York University campus near the new Pan Am Centre in Markham will make the most of resources already in place, which could be an advantage in its bid.
The Markham Economist & Sun joined York Region Media Group publisher Ian Proudfoot Monday as he sat down with York University president and vice-chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri.
A September announcement revealed the university had chosen a proposed campus site just north of Hwy. 407 between Warden Avenue and Kennedy Road.
York Region chairman and CEO, Bill Fisch, announced the region’s intention to provide $25 million for the project.
Regional council unanimously agreed to support the proposal and commit to the funding.
Mayor Frank Scarpitti also announced his council’s contribution of five acres for the satellite campus.
York U. submitted a final campus proposal to the government by the Sept. 26 deadline.
Two and a half months later, Shoukri and university provost Rhonda Lenton along with media relations head Joanne Rider, are visiting across York Region to share a more in-depth version of their campus vision.
“Our proposal is very straight forward,” explained Shoukri, who noted that while the university chose Markham, the proposal is really about being in York Region and that support has come from all parts of York after their decision.
“We are the only region of its kind in Canada without a university. We chose Markham because the new campus would support its growing urban centre.”
The university intends to make the most of facilities within the expanding downtown core, including the Pan Am Centre and a soon-to-be-built movie theatre.
“We will be close to the new Pan Am Centre and we plan on making good use of it. It will save the campus from needing its own athletic wing.”
The movie theatre would ideally be used for classrooms during the day.
Other surrounding facilities include Bill Crothers Secondary School, which may come to good use if sporting fields are required throughout the duration of each semester. The YMCA is also nearby as is the Unionville GO station, which is being transformed into a transportation hub for trains and buses, which now run on a dedicated rapidway.
Structurally, the campus would consist of more than one building, though exactly how many is still unknown.
Shoukri added that the buildings would be no taller than seven or eight storeys.
If York U. is given the thumbs up, Lenton says it will be a great opportunity to enhance the university’s IT relationship with businesses around the region, as well as continue to provide real-life training for students through developed partnerships.
“We want to go above and beyond the co-op type learning. We will be introducing programs that support the community,” she said.
Shoukri says he received a call informing York U. that the number of proposals from across the province had been cut from 19 to 13 - eliminating those that were no longer eligible.
Up to three of the proposals can be accepted, he added.
So how does he think York U. will stack up against the competition?
“It’s difficult to be modest. I think we are the best option for a proposal, because we’re in a very good position.”
Numerous other municipalities entered in the bid for the satellite campus, but Markham stood out due to its advances in transit, entertainment facilities and other amenities nearby.
Population projections suggest it is York and Peel regions that will have a large demand for university positions in the coming years, as large numbers of young people in these areas graduate from high school.
If the campus is approved - with an announcement regarding the province’s decision perhaps to be included in the spring provincial budget - students will have access to a broad range of undergraduate and graduate programs for a variety of innovative programs.
New and expanded programs will be offered in engineering, business and health sciences.
According to Shoukri, York U. hopes to have 5,000 students at the proposed campus within five years and 10,000 to 20,000 within 20 years.
During the Sept. 11 announcement, Mayor Frank Scarpitti said that if the proposal is approved by next spring, the city hopes to see a campus up and running by 2018.