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Algonquin College breaks ground on indigenous entrepreneurship facility

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by Patricia Williams

Ottawa’s Algonquin College has broken ground on a state-of-the art facility that incorporates both an Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Centre and Institute for Indigenous Entrepreneurship.
Algonquin College breaks ground on indigenous entrepreneurship facility

The project will house facilities for testing and development, simulations, competitions and collaborative project development as well as entrepreneurial support in the growing field of cyber security.

The institute, the first of its kind on a college campus in Ontario, is being designed in consultation with indigenous communities and is based on indigenous business principles.

"We are working very closely with community stakeholders," says Ron Deganadus McLester, executive director and special adviser to the college president on aboriginal initiatives.

"We have successfully engaged students, elders, business leaders, student sponsors and traditional knowledge carriers as we work to ensure meaningful and mutually beneficial futures."

The project, which has a total price tag of $44.9 million, is being undertaken by a team that includes prime design consultants Edward J Cuhaci and Associates Architects Inc. and Diamond Schmitt Architects in partnership.

Structural engineering consultants are Adjeleian Allen Rubeli Ltd. Electrical and mechanical engineering consultants are Goodkey Weedmark & Associates Ltd. Construction manager is PCL.

Completion is scheduled for 2018.

Construction of the new facility was made possible in part by a $21.9-million grant from the federal strategic investment fund for post-secondary education and $2.9 million from the Ontario government.

An outdated library in the C building at the college's Woodroffe campus will be renovated to house the new facility. A floor will be added to provide new library space.

The project will include about 30,000 square feet of new construction, said Todd Schonewille, the college's director of physical resources.

"Recognizing that there are several discrete parts of the project, (the status of) architectural completion varies," he said. "A conservative average across the entire project would be 50 per cent."

Schonewille said the design of the base building, the part of the project that includes the new library space, is well advanced. Design of the exterior envelope and structure is complete. Interior design is also well underway.

"The design of the single-storey part of the project is less advanced, as a result of allowing the proper time to fully engage the indigenous communities, but is on track to be complete at the same time as the base building," Schonewille said.

In both cases, he said, completion of the architectural design is being co-ordinated and done in parallel with construction activities.

In terms of construction, Schonewille said phasing of activities "needs to be closely managed" to minimize disruptions and the impact on students, given that the C building is at the heart of the college and its academic operations.

He said the project will also experience challenges "typical to performing renovations in dated facilities."

The list includes building code compliance-related upgrades, dealing with hazardous materials and overall improvements to meet the LEED Gold standard that the college has adopted.

McLester, who was appointed to his current position last August, said establishment of the Institute for Indigenous Entrepreneurship was prompted in part by the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"We also have some of the highest indigenous student enrolment in the college system in Ontario in addition to having longstanding, meaningful partnerships with indigenous communities," he said.

McLester, most recently director and special adviser on aboriginal initiatives at Mohawk College, said Algonquin is anxious to embed entrepreneurship in all of its thinking.

"It is equally important that we leverage traditional indigenous knowledge as we do this," he said.

Founded in 1967, Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology was named after the First Nations people who lived in the area. The college has campuses in Perth and Pembroke, Ont. in addition to Ottawa.

All three have recently completed major expansion projects.

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