Print Edition: March 25, 2015
If you visited the Chilliwack North campus for theatre department’s recent production of Julius Caesar, you may have noticed that the sign on Yale Road is now shared with Keystone Church.
The university has been actively but unsuccessfully trying to sell the Chilliwack North campus for the last six years, which was mostly vacated after the opening of the campus at Canada Education Park. Because the campus is no longer used for academic purposes except for the theatre program, UFV rents space on the campus to external organizations such as Keystone in order to recoup some of the costs.
“While we’re trying to sell the overall campus, we’re trying to rent it to try and offset the operating costs,” says Craig Toews, the executive director of campus planning and resource development, noting that even basic maintenance costs, such as cutting the lawns and keeping the power on, add up to an expensive bill for the university.
Although the university is unable to disclose the terms of its rental agreements, Toews says it draws a significant amount of revenue from leasing out space. He adds that Keystone Church also helps out the university with operational expenses because UFV doesn’t have facilities maintenance staff on site.
“They’re helping us with the lawn and landscaping and trying to keep the place updated,” he says. “It’s a real help. And again, it reduces the amount of resource drain … so it’s all around a benefit to the university.”
According to Toews, the university has had 20 to 30 inquiries over the years from interested parties wanting to rent space for commercial or residential purposes. While Keystone Church is currently renting approximately 5,000 square feet of the campus on a year-to-year basis, they’re not the campus’ only tenant.
“We’re renting space to IRAP [Industrial Research Assistance Program], the cafeteria is being rented out to Stó:l? for a culinary program they have funding for, and we’ve also had Community Futures renting space there in building E,” says Toews.
There are no policies restricting who can rent space from UFV, although Toews notes that the university would be careful not to rent to unscrupulous businesses or tenants.
In regards to the university’s sign sharing space with Keystone Church’s sign, Toews says that if other significant anchor tenants moved in on a long-term basis, the university would create signage for them as well, “like a business park.”
Keystone Church rents building F, a former campus daycare. The other buildings for rent, D and E, constitute approximately 55,000 square feet of space. In comparison, the new Student Union Building on the Abbotsford campus is about 50,000 square feet.
The tenancy agreement is subject to the sale of the land, so the tenants of Chilliwack North will be given notice to vacate the campus when it is finally sold.
However, trying to sell such a large piece of property has not been easy for the university. At the recent meeting for the university’s 2015-16 budget plan, UFV president Mark Evered said that although he hopes the sale of the Chilliwack North campus will happen within the next year, negotiations have delayed the process.
“Although technically we own the land fee simple, we can’t do anything without government approval, and government approval includes addressing some First Nations issues,” he said.
According to the University Act, any land acquisition or disposition requires approval from the Ministry of Education, a subset of which includes following a First Nations consultation protocol.
“That’s what we’re doing,” explains Toews. “We’re talking with local Stó:l? about the land and what the opportunities would be there.”
In the meantime, the Chilliwack North campus still hosts theatre students and provides a venue for their productions. Many of the theatre courses are now taught at the 100 square metre theatre studio at the CEP campus, but the courses surrounding theatre productions, costume design, and set construction still take place at the Chilliwack North campus.
“They’re kind of straddling the two sites,” said Toews. “The long-term plan is for the theatre to have a performance space in the Digital HUB project, which is the number-one capital priority for the university, and that’s most likely here in Abbotsford.”