Big year on and off campus
By Sophie Desrosiers
Just over a year ago, on Oct. 29 2012, Algonquin’s new waterfront campus opened in Pembroke. The community had high hopes the new location would help revitalize downtown Pembroke by bringing students closer.
A year later, the community is thriving.
While Algonquin had been a presence in the community since 1967, the old campus was nothing special and the distance to downtown wasn’t ideal for students.
Susan Ellis, manager of Economic Development Recreation and Tourism for the City of Pembroke, said Algonquin’s new location has played a major role in about a dozen new businesses opening in the past year.
“What we’re seeing is a slow and steady growth which is exactly what we want,” said Ellis.
“One of the best descriptions I heard was our Member of Provincial Parliament referred to it (the new campus) as a game-changer,” said Jamie Bramburger, manager of Community and Student Affairs with the Pembroke campus. “And I think that’s probably a really great way to describe it because it did change what the college could do in this community.”
The waterfront location is part of a municipal park which the college has named Renaissance Square. While calling Renaissance Square “home” is new to Algonquin, their involvement with the area goes back more than 13 years, when the city of Pembroke decided to redevelop their waterfront for the millennium.
Algonquin’s forestry technician class of 1999 built an outdoor chapel along the edge of the Ottawa River as part of this redevelopment. A boardwalk lines the water at Renaissance Park and showcases various pavilions depicting the history of both the City of Pembroke and the college, through series of photographs and short blurbs.
“In most recent years a number of students have volunteered to help maintain the boardwalk,” said Ellis. “I know that they’re doing a lot of work with looking at invasive species along the waterfront and identifying and inventorying those species so they can be removed.”
Currently the college has close to 1,000 full-time students, a number on the rise, according to Bramburger and Ellis.
“The campus is growing and is continuing to attract students from all over Canada and the world,” said Ellis. “We’d like to see it grow at a rate we can absorb it and work in a really hands-on, positive manner.”
Sam Graham, a student in the social service worker program, is impressed with the new campus and the impact it has had. He was the first student to tour the new campus a week before its opening to check out the accessibility.
“I play basketball,” said Graham. “I couldn’t do that at the old campus. This has a state of the art gym.”
As for the waterfront location, “it just adds beauty to it,” said Graham. “It gives people a reason to come here.”
Into the future
By Hillary Robert
Privately-owned student residence buildings are in the planning phase for Algonquin College’s Waterfront Campus in Pembroke.
The former Lakeside Medical Clinic, located less than a block from the campus, is being considered for this project. Local developers and the city of Pembroke are working together in hopes to open a privately-owned student residence.
“We are not in a situation right now to build a residence even though almost 50 per cent of our students are coming from outside Renfrew County,” said Jamie Bramburger, Community and Student Affairs Manager at the Pembroke campus.
Though the residence would not be college property, it would offer students cost effective housing during their studies. One-bedroom apartment rentals in the area range from $700 to $1,300, money that students could be using more effectively towards their education.
“The exciting part I think about having the campus built in the downtown has been the economic development spin-offs for the municipality,” said Bramburger. “One example of that is that there is an existing building, the Lakeside Medical Clinic or former Lakeside Medical Clinic, that is now a proposal in front of city hall for a private developer to convert that space into a student residence run privately.”
The Waterfront Campus has become a staple in the Pembroke community. Located in Waterfront Park, home to the town’s famous Kiwanis Way Waterfront Trail, the building offers as much to the local residents of Pembroke as it does to the students.
“We have a lot of people that are advocates of the college,” said Bramburger.
The campus gives as much back to the community as it takes. The facilities are home to a lecture series in which guest speakers come to educate community member and students in a fun and engaging learning environment. Dylan Black of The Bear radio station in Ottawa and Sports Business News reporter Howard Bloom are some of the many names making an appearance at the campus in the near future.
“If you have the right mix of programming and demand, then you want to be able to serve as many students as you can,” said Bramburger. “Pembroke has been progressive and understands the benefits of having a community college.”