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Old Posted Jul 18, 2018, 12:23 AM
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Red River College to start construction on $95-M innovation centre
By: Larry Kusch | Posted: 07/17/2018 7:00 PM

After receiving federal assurances that its funding is now secure, Red River College will begin construction this week on its $95 million Innovation Centre.

RRC president and CEO Paul Vogt said Tuesday the college has received word from the prime minister's office, Manitoba cabinet minister Jim Carr and the Western Diversification Office that $40.6 million in federal funding is firmly in place.

The college placed the project on hold in March, saying it could not meet a Nov. 30 construction deadline imposed by Ottawa. That had threatened Ottawa's total contribution, some $12 million of which had already been advanced.

After months of negotiations — and worry over the project's future — the federal cash will now flow albeit from a different — and as yet undisclosed — program.

"We’re obviously very excited about the project," said a relieved Vogt on Tuesday.

"It allows us to continue with some very innovative programming that I think is really going to reshape the future of the college."

While the funding issue held up construction, the summer building season is far from a total loss, Vogt said.

"The main issue was being able to pour the piles and the foundation because of the issues around curing cement. Given that the season for doing that runs into mid-October that will allow both the foundation and the framing work to be done in this construction season," he said.

During the delay, the project's design was completed and some construction tenders were let, Vogt said.

The Innovation Centre is expected to attract more than 1,200 students and staff to RRC’s downtown campus. Despite the delay caused by the funding uncertainty, the college still hopes to have the building completed by late summer 2020.

The project has strong support from the local business community and is seen as a key pillar underpinning a growing downtown hub of tech and start-up enterprises.

Chuck Davidson, president and chief executive officer of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the apparent end to the funding stalemate.

"This (project) will be a welcome addition to Red River College, the Exchange District and will be a critical piece for the Manitoba business community as we develop our focus on being a leader in innovation and the workforce needs of the future," he said in an email.

The federal contribution of $40.6 million is the project’s sole source of direct government funding. The province’s contribution was to guarantee a loan of up to $54.8 million while the college initiates a fundraising campaign.

Funding for the project had originally been approved to come from post-secondary institutions strategic investment fund, launched in April 2016. However, RRC didn’t reach a formal funding agreement with Ottawa until late June of last year. That left only 17 months to finish the building.

Ottawa had been loath to extend the Nov. 30 deadline – already an extension from the original deadline of this past April 30 – because it would have received pressure for the same courtesy from other projects across Canada.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Last edited by Wpg_Guy; Jul 18, 2018 at 6:04 AM.
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