Chilliwack North campus has been for sale for seven years and mostly vacant since 2012, when its programs and classes moved to the new building at Canada Education Park. The only remnant of university activity is the theatre program, which operates out of the still very active theatre. Currently, negotiations that could lead to the sale of most of the property are underway and are expected to be wrapped up by mid-summer of this year.
Previously, fluctuations in the economy had created turbulence in the market for the selling of the property.
“We’ve had numerous leads and interested parties. I’ve toured all sorts of people though there, realtors and such, but not really anything [significant] until this year,” says Craig Toews, executive director of planning and resource development at UFV. “This year we have one developer who’s interested in about 13 acres of residential development and another group who’s interested in using the front piece of our property for a private school.”
The front piece includes the existing C building, formerly health sciences. The potential buyers, the Cascade Christian School and Van Maren Group, a Chilliwack development company, are both interested in pieces of the property, but neither has committed yet. While the private school attempts to raise enough money for the purchase, the Van Maren Group has been working on negotiations with the city for development approval.
“We’re selling them the land, but it’s the city they have to convince to allow them to build what they’d like to build on that property,” Toews says.
The sale of Chilliwack North is actually part of an earlier and greater plan to fund other projects.
“The importance of the sale of the campus is to pay down the debt we incurred in building CEP,” Toews explains.
While the $2.5 million purchase price may seem like a welcomed addition to UFV’s bank accounts, it has been purposed since before the initial marketing of the property. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh we sold it, we’re going to have money to do things’ — no, it’s to pay down the debt,” Toews reminds.
When the property is sold, the theatre department will continue to operate out of the Chilliwack North theatre for approximately five years.
Plans exist to ultimately bring the department to Abbotsford, however a timeline for this hasn’t been concretely established.
“The long term plan is that they would get a new theatre space within the digital hub project,” Toews says, referring to the proposed building that exists as a large capital project. This would potentially be located on the Abbotsford campus as part of the Abbotsford campus master plan, though funding for the project is not secured.
As the deal stands now, it’s a “hurry up and wait” kind of situation. UFV is hopeful of the sale, to both of its interested buyers, but nothing is set in stone, and marketing will continue until a deal can be reached.
“In the middle-end of summer we’ll have a lot more to report on in terms of finality,” Toews says.