Downtown college concept moves ahead

The initiative to create a campus for Okanagan College in downtown Salmon Arm is gaining momentum.

Margaret Hardy of ML Hardy & Associates has been hired as the new Downtown Community Campus co-ordinator. Hardy will be working under the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society, explains Economic Development Manager Lana Fitt, to undertake all aspects of planning for a downtown campus.

“Margaret will work toward a completed business plan, site identification, infrastructure requirements, community partnerships, programming and a budget for the entire project,” says Fitt.

Hardy, who has lived in Salmon Arm for about 18 months, was awarded Professional Business Women of the Year on the Coast for similar work and has more than two decades of experience in building collaborative community initiatives. She says she’s thrilled to be part of the project.

Fitt explains that if the community has a document prepared that will detail the entire project, when funding and other opportunities arise, the community will be able to respond.

As well as having a co-ordinator in place, a Downtown Community Campus Committee has been established. Appointed are: Jim Barmby, the college’s regional dean for Shuswap/Revestoke; Debbie Cannon from the City of Salmon Arm; Robyn Cyr from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District; and Bill Laird from the economic development society. At-large members are: Dawn Benson, Eugene Casavant, Kyle Dearing, Sunny Dhaliwal, Ed Fearns, Jesse Fraser, Corryn Grayston, Bernd Hermanski, Joanne Mason, Corey Sigvaldasen and Lynda Wilson.

Committee chair Bill Laird says he sees the proposed downtown community campus as an unprecedented opportunity for the Shuswap and he hopes to see vigorous input from all residents and community partners.

“The prospect of developing a downtown community campus presents the potential to establish shared amenities which will contribute to the educational, cultural and economic prosperity of our community.”

Barmby notes some people are wondering why the college needs a bigger campus in Salmon Arm.

“We need to be more versatile and respond to more community needs – not just young people, but people changing careers and the boomer population…”

He said the college needs to offer programs in agriculture, theatre, visual arts and health-care related fields.

No site has been pinpointed, says Fitt, because it’s not known what size of building footprint would be needed.

“At this point the only reference to a site is we know we want it to be in the downtown area of Salmon Arm.”

Hardy has been hired on a one-year contract funded by the city, the CSRD and the college, with hopes of renewed funding next year to make it a two-year position. The aim is to create the downtown campus by 2020.


Salmon Arm Observer