Construction has started on a pair of Selkirk College student housing projects that will ultimately result in better learner outcomes and strengthened communities.
Students, college staff, government leaders and contractors gathered on Nov. 4 for the official groundbreaking ceremony that signals the start of a 112-bed project on the Castlegar Campus and a 36-unit project on Nelson’s Silver King Campus.
The $31.2 million investment by the provincial government will result in vital on-campus housing for students in all programs.
“Students need access to affordable housing, so they can focus on their studies without being distracted by finances or finding a safe space to call home,” says Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education & Skills Training. “By breaking ground for new housing at both the Castlegar and Nelson campuses, we are increasing the on-campus housing at Selkirk College by 71 per cent.”
Announced late last year, the two-site project will add to the college’s current inventory that includes a 100-unit student housing facility on the Castlegar Campus and a 109-unit building at Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus. A key element of the college’s strategic plan that’s focused on increasing access and modernizing facilities, the new units will contribute to the mission of building remarkable futures.
“Safe and welcoming housing contributes to successful outcomes for learners,” says Selkirk College President Maggie Matear. “We’re grateful to the provincial government for the opportunity to add to our on-campus housing inventory, which will also alleviate some pressure on the greater community. The Nelson and Castlegar projects are essential in our approach to create graduates who then take their knowledge, skills and training into workforce.”
The college has signed a design-build contract with Scott Builders who have enlisted the services of Nelson’s Cover Architects, Nelson’s Ward Engineering and a variety of local sub-trades to complete the project.
Using a modular-build approach, the two facilities will come together over the next 12 to 15 months. With focus on sustainability and accessibility, completion is expected in time for the start of the September 2024 academic year.
Incorporating modern design, the buildings will also place a premium on today’s learner. Aligning with BC’s Wood First Initiative and designed to meet Step 4 of the province’s Energy Step Code, there will be welcoming common spaces, spacious communal kitchens, an allotment of family-units and all-important study rooms.
Emma Russell is a third-year Rural Pre-Medicine Program student who studies on the Castlegar Campus. She grew up in Golden, BC, where she graduated from high school in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now in her final year of the three-year program, she has lived in Castlegar student housing since her first semester in September 2020.
“As a young student attending post-secondary for the first time from a rural community, having specialized housing on-campus eased my nerves during a very stressful time,” says Russell, who plans on completing her bachelor’s degree after graduating from Selkirk College in the spring and will then attend dental school at the University of British Columbia with the ultimate goal of becoming an orthodontist in her hometown.
“Living on campus has been essential for my ability to attend classes and labs, giving me the housing security I need to focus on my studies. Adding more housing at Selkirk College will be beneficial for future students who will arrive to find others in the exact same situation, providing a community and support system unlike anything else.”
In its commitment to regional post-secondary, Columbia Basin Trust has contributed to the project with funds to construct a canopy between the current facility on the Castlegar Campus — which was built in the early 1980s — to the new units. With both Castlegar Campus facilities overlooking the majestic Columbia River, the new units will provide future students with an immersive on-campus experience.
“This investment in on-campus housing is very timely,” says Matear. “Combined with our broad range of programs and excellent student services, this new housing will support ongoing recruitment. It will also relieve some pressure on local housing inventories in a region with a very tight rental market.”