It would be a school for wellness by the water. That’s George Brown College’s dream of a lakefront campus where all its scattered student nurses and gerontologists and dental hygienists and hearing specialists and personal support workers could learn together in one airy new complex.
The downtown community college is negotiating with land agency Waterfront Toronto to see if it can realize that sweet dream not far from Redpath Sugar near the foot of Sherbourne Street.
“We’re a landlocked institution that’s doubled its students in the past eight years, which is hugely exciting, but we need to grow and expand our footprint,” said George Brown president Anne Sado.
“We’re a downtown college with a focus on the arts and creative communications and hospitality and construction — so we align well with the sectors of growth in Toronto,” she said.
While talks are still hush-hush and there has been no money pledged yet by Queen’s Park, Waterfront Toronto officials say a college campus would be just what’s needed to breathe life, youth and a cultural pulse into this sleepy corner of downtown.
“To have students on the waterfront would make it absolutely vital; they would animate the area year-round, not just in summer,” said Marisa Piattelli, vice-president of government relations, communications and strategic initiatives for Waterfront Toronto, the public agency that manages Toronto’s lakeshore.
The college wants to lease land from the city at the heart of the East Bayfront strip of shoreline being developed between Jarvis and Cherry Streets. The 0.7 hectares sit east of Jarvis Street and just east of the Corus Entertainment complex that is under construction.
“We’d like to amalgamate all our health science students from the three or four locations they’re spread over at the moment into one complex where they could train in the sort of teams they’ll work in when they graduate,” said Sado.
The college also hopes it could open its first student residence there, plus a new sports centre.
George Brown has been growing already; it is adding 18,000 square feet on its food service building at 300 Adelaide St.; it purchased the old Pasquale Brothers building at 215 King St. E. to provide another 20,000 square feet, and leased 30,000 square feet at a Richmond St. E. building for graphic design and digital media; and has created more space at its Casa Loma campus.
Yet it still has health science students scattered across town, with nursing on King St. and hearing specialists and dental hygienists at the Casa Loma campus and prosthetics technicians at the Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and gerontology at Ryerson University.
“If we could amalgamate health sciences by the lake, we could open up room on the other campuses to expand apprenticeships and trades programs by up to 40 per cent over the next five years,” she added.
“We feel very strongly we have to grow to help Ontario’s looming labour shortage.”