York Regional municipalities submit competing bids; await York’s decision in May
YORK REGION – It’s no secret that higher learning is a big part of everyday life in York Region, where Seneca College’s Markham and King campuses are complemented by flourishing research agreements such as University of Toronto’s biodiversity program at the Koffller Scientific Reserve.
Now, York University has plans to further help York Region cement its status as a true hub of research and education, by establishing a York campus in one of its communities – the first in the region, and a major milestone for one Canada’s fastest growing regional municipalities.
Attracting a university campus has long been a goal of the regional government – one that was explicitly set out in its Economic Development Action Plan at the beginning of 2013.
“Opportunities exist with the pre-existing post-secondary presence to expand and enhance partnerships and potentially attract additional investment,” the report stated, emphasizing the potential benefits of “a new research-focused university and/or college campus that directly enhances the research capabilities within the Region.”
“Strong connections:” York’s ambitious plan and a partnership with Seneca
When York University first announced its York Region campus plan in their digital yFile publication, it announced that Seneca College would also be involved with the new campus.
“Our strongest competitive advantage differentiating York University is the ability to include Seneca College as our academic partner in providing joint and collaborative degree programs as well as shared student services,” York’s Vice Chancellor and President Mamdouh Shoukri told the publication.
“Seneca is already on board and very supportive, and you can be sure that we will highlight and leverage the multiple benefits of our very successful working relationship.”
York plans to host public information sessions regarding the new campus in either late April or early May, but in the meantime, several York Region municipalities have already prepared their bids.
Heavyweight Contenders: Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan & Newmarket/Aurora Submit Bids
While York Regional municipalities were invited to present their proposals to the university on April 17th, several of them revealed the key points of their bids to local media (and even to York University) well in advance of that date. A shortlist released by the university on April 25th eliminated Newmarket/Aurora and East Gwillimbury from contention, leaving just three possible locations for the new campus.
Thanks in large part to the comprehensive reporting over at YorkRegion.com, GTA Real Estate News is pleased to present a breakdown of each short-listed bidder:
1. City of Markham
The City of Markham wasted no time in presenting their pitch to York University, doing so in an in camera session on April 7. The Markham City Council – responsible for representing one of York Region’s largest and most quickly-growing populations – has been discussing campus attraction for “years,” according to Mayor Frank Scarpitti.
Markham is already a hub of education, featuring top secondary schools such as Unionville High School and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Many of its younger residents also commute to Toronto universities like York, making it a natural pick.
Two cities over, Vaughan’s city staff have been working quickly as well – they made a pitch to York University as early as February, and in early April the city’s council reviewed a confidential report outlining a potential site for the campus.
Vaughan’s trump card in this race is the currently-underway extension of the TTC’s Spadina subway line, which will feature two Vaughan stations near Highway 7 and the 407 – making it an exceptional location for the large percentage of students who prefer to commute via transit rather than by car. The extension is set for completion in 2016, so it would likely be finished well in advance of a (hypothetical) Vaughan campus.
3. Richmond Hill
Richmond Hill began preparing their campus bid back in early April, when Mayor Dave Barrow stressed that the municipality would be a good choice for York and Seneca due to its highly-educated population, “special” people, and harmonious balance between urban amenities and natural green space.
The bid from Richmond Hill is to be taken seriously from a transit perspective as well – if funding is secured, a proposed Yonge subway extension would see the TTC connecting to VIVA Rapidway service on Highway 7 right in the heart of the town.
With a wealth of forward-thinking tech companies having already chosen to locate here in York Region – a distinguished list that includes IBM, Open Text, CGI, and AMD – the team here at GTA Real Estate News is excited to see what possibilities might be opened up by the addition of an innovative postsecondary campus right here in the region.
The University is planning to choose a partnering municipality at some point during the month of May, and we will have the details on that as they emerge, so stay tuned.