New student housing will replace the more than 40-year old buildings at Coast Mountain College’s Terrace campus thanks to an $18.7 million investment from the province.
Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark was in Terrace Sept. 6 to deliver the news as students began their first week back in class.
“Being the first person in my family to graduate from high school and go to college — for some people that is a big move. To pack up, to leave your clan, to leave your family to go get a brighter future, you want to go to a place that gives you a sense of belonging,” Mark says.
The total cost of the project is $19.7 million with the college coming up with the remaining $1 million.
Construction is to start next summer on the first of two three-storey residential buildings to replace four obsolete structures. The second is due for completion in the fall of 2021. Each will contain 54 beds.
In all, 71 beds will be replaced and 33 new ones added. There will also be four suites for Elders or relatives to visit students in residence.
“Students that are coming from outside of Terrace, they will now be able to have their family stay in residence with them, which was not allowed previously,” says Lenda Girard, student union organizer. “It’s long overdue. We drastically need this, especially with an anticipated growing student population and the lack of affordable, safe rentals in town.”
Each new building will have accessible communal spaces like a student lounge, study space, Indigenous cultural space and common kitchen.
New on-campus housing has been high on the list of priorities for students for years, Girard says. When residences are full, students often have trouble finding affordable rental options off-campus with rising prices and fewer vacancies in Terrace. The current buildings date back to the mid-1970s with aging and outdated infrastructure.
“We’ve heard students weren’t even allowed to have their own hot-plate because the wiring is so old, it would trip breakers. No two students could be boiling a kettle, using a microwave or use hot-plates to cook,” Girard says.
Charlotte Guno, acting vice-chair of the college’s First Nations Band Council described the living conditions of one of the students as “terrible.”
“The dollars are the first step to providing our students with safe, clean, affordable student housing. A home away from home is vital for student success,” Guno says.
The new dormitories will also be more energy-efficient, Mark says. “It’s going to be a big deal for this community.”
The existing residences will be demolished in phases so as to ensure there are as many residential spaces as possible during construction.