As Joseph and Katherine Ng prepared to open their Kia-Ora resto-lounge on the ground floor of the Millennium Centre last week, Joseph confirmed that they were motivated in large part by what was happening several storeys above.
Workers were putting the finishing touches on the new home of Red Deer College’s Donald School of Business, which is scheduled to conduct its first classes in the 4909 49th St. office building on Sept. 2. And with 550 students enrolled, the spillover into the downtown is expected to be significant.
“It’s going to have a very positive economic impact on all kinds of services, from restaurants to drug stores,” said Evelyn Storm, executive director of the Red Deer Downtown Business Association.
Not only that, she added, the influx of so many predominantly young people into the city’s core will alter its composition in a positive way.
“I think that will really change the complexion of the downtown.”
Paul Harris, a city councillor and co-owner of Sunworks Home & Garden, is pleased to see the Red Deer College satellite campus opening a block from his store.
“We think we’ll get 500 new Christmas shoppers, which would be substantial for us.”
But Harris also agrees with Storm that students and staff at the Donald School of Business will produce benefits from their presence alone — especially in the case of those who return in the evenings and on weekends, or opt to live in the area.
“When the streets are alive and vibrant, there’s less crime, there are fewer problems, there is less vandalism.”
Satellite campus features state-of-the-art technology
With features like Smart boards, wireless computer connections and multi-media work stations in abundance, the only thing old-school about Red Deer College’s new satellite campus may be the stairs that students will be encouraged to climb.
During a “sneak peek” of the Donald School of Business in the Millennium Centre on Monday, dean Joanne Packham described how students will ride an escalator to the building’s second floor and be deposited at the base of a staircase leading to the third and fourth floors.
“We’re hoping 90 per cent, 95 per cent of our traffic will actually use the escalator-stair service,” she said.
Eleven “learning studios” will be spread over those two floors, with state-of-the-art learning technologies in each. Learning common areas will also be available to students for group and individual work, with the offices of faculty members on the fourth floor and administrative space on the fifth.
“It’s an extraordinary piece of work that’s been done there,” said college president Joel Ward.
He said construction costs were $2.8 million, but the business department was in desperate need of new space and a move downtown made sense for a variety of reasons.
A $3-million donation from prominent Red Deer entrepreneurs Jack and Joan Donald, whom the Donald School of Business is named after, helped make the project a reality.
The new facilities will be networked electronically into the main campus, but Doug Sharp, Red Deer College’s director of facilities, believes business students will benefit from having their own space.
“You will create a culture within this area, and I think they’ll be more connected here than if they were back on campus.”
Shane Crawford, vice-president of operations with the RDC students’ association, and a business student at the college, agreed.
“It brings all the business students together into one area,” he said, describing how this wasn’t the case previously.
“You didn’t get that sense of community.”
The college is encouraging students to walk, cycle, carpool and use public transit to get to the Donald School of Business. The city is co-operating with discounted bus passes and reduced parking rates.