Obfuscation Conceals Facts – Fanshawe-Kingsmill Downtown

London Free Press

Joni Baechler, Special to QMI Agency

An artist’s rendering shows the transformation Fanshawe College wants to make to the Kingsmill’s building on Dundas St. in downtown London, including the addition of two storeys to the former department store. Fanshawe’s request for $10 million from the city toward its $66 million plan to expand its downtown campus ­— adding another 1,600 students to the 400 already at the College’s Centre for Digital and Performance Arts in Market Tower — was rebuffed by council. The issue comes before council again Tuesday, just before end-of-term restrictions limit council’s spending power, after the Downtown Business Association offered to contribute $1 million to the project.

Artist rendering of Fanshawe College – Kingsmill project

There has been a high degree of discussion on the Fanshawe College downtown proposal. Obfuscation of the facts and political interference on this project is at a level I haven’t seen in all my years on council.

So here are the facts:

  • Fanshawe College has a student-growth target of 15% over the next five years. They are aggressively expanding to accommodate new students.
  • Council urged the college to expand in the downtown as an urban renewal project, freeing up space on their main campus for new programs. It was clear; the expansion in downtown would require partnership with the city of $20 million. The college would pay their portion for the new space, and the city would assist with the urban renewal costs of re-purposing downtown heritage buildings. This financially successful model and partnership is seen in cities across the country. Fanshawe opened their Phase I downtown building in January.
  • The Phase II business plan presented to council proposed a reconstruction and expansion of the Kingsmill’s building to accommodate an additional 1,600 students. The total number of students downtown — 2,000, double the original agreement. These students would be net new students.
  • To make this a reality, the college asked to amend the original agreement for an additional $10 million, (recently revised to $9 million over 10 years, $1 million a year).
  • The college and their professional facilities experts, along with engineers and architects, explored more than 20 properties in downtown. Kingsmill’s was the only building that met their specific needs. The college undertook an extensive due diligence process on the Market Tower building and determined the cost would be well in excess of the cost to reconstruct the Kingsmill’s building.
  • The total “all in, turnkey” cost estimate for the Kingsmill’s project is $66.2 million. These costs were validated by an independent cost consultant and include land acquisition, demolition, reconstruction and all interior equipment and furnishings. The actual estimated construction cost is $37.9 million or $375 per square foot, not the $660 per square foot some have erroneously asserted. This cost is in keeping with other college construction costs across the province.
  • The project will include funding from a variety of sources, including private funds raised by the college and provincial funding, part of their core funding.
  • City staff reviewed the funding request and cost estimates. They were satisfied with the return on investment and recommended using funds in our economic development reserve fund. There is no tax increase as the funds already in the account are to be used for this type of project.
  • The loss of taxes on the Kingsmill’s property is $60,000. In return, the college will pay the city $150,000 yearly ($75/student) at the close of the development agreement.
  • Fanshawe estimates its students contribute $422.3 million to the local economy every year. The downtown Fanshawe project’s annual economic impact is anticipated to be similar to what other cities have experienced, more than $6,000 per student spending, which equals $12-million every year. It’s anticipated new businesses will open to serve the influx of population and all will pay taxes. The assessment rate in the downtown will grow. Plus, the take-up in vacant residential units, the potential for new apartments above stores and the synergies of having market-ready labour in the technological and hospitality hub of London will boost our economy.
  • Those supporting the project include city treasurer Martin Hayward, city manager Art Zuidema, chief planner John Fleming, London Economic Development Corp., the Downtown Business Association, Downtown London, MainStreet London, and Fanshawe College board of directors. All appreciate the important economic impact this project will have on the city, the jobs it will create, and the urban renewal of downtown.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>