The University of Lethbridge has seen a number of significant construction projects in recent years, but nothing can rival the scope and envisioned impact of the Destination Project – a three-phase development that will realize the creation of a new academic/science building, new central utility plant and a revitalization of University Hall.
Simply put, the project has the potential to become one of the largest construction undertakings in the history of the city of Lethbridge and will fundamentally shape the path of the University of Lethbridge for the foreseeable future.
“The Destination Project will be transformational, the most significant development of our Lethbridge campus since University Hall was completed in 1972,” says University of Lethbridge President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Mike Mahon. “Beyond the massive physical changes that will take place, the project is a means through which our collective aspirations can be realized. The new facility will be more than a teaching and research space, but a place for community engagement and outreach.”
The Destination Project actually consists of three components. The first is the construction of an academic building that will house a significant part of the science teaching and research activity on campus, as well as a number of other potential groups that have yet to be defined.
Secondly, the project will incorporate an energy centre, a new central and heating plant that will not only replace the current plant but be sufficiently expanded to service the new infrastructure.
Finally, a comprehensive revitalization of the original University Hall will take place as the academic groups moved into the new building will have their spaces backfilled.
To date, over $12 million in planning funds have been provided by the Government of Alberta to the project and a significant amount of pre-planning has taken place, including in-depth consultative work with some of the groups initially identified to be moving into the new academic building component of the project.
The next phase of planning involves the site selection process, of which the University community will have the opportunity to contribute to during a pair of presentations on Nov. 6 & 7.
“What we’ve done so far is to take four sites from the Campus Master Plan and conduct a series of geotechnical and massing studies to see which of the sites would best suit the project,” says Project Manager, Brian Sullivan.
In its current form, the Destination Project will rival University Hall in size, meaning an additional 35,000 sq. metres added to the campus footprint.
“People don’t really appreciate how big this building is going to be. The reality is that this project will be four times the size of Markin Hall,” says Sullivan.
Once a site is selected, the rest of the planning funds will take the project through to the completion of schematic designs by December 2014. If all goes well, construction could begin 10 to 15 months later, eventually culminating with an opening date for the academic building sometime in Fall 2019.
“We have a long way to go to get to that point,” says Mahon. “We have been very imaginative and innovative in our thinking on this project but much more consultative work needs to be done and input from our faculty, staff, students and the broader community will be vital to the process.”
Mahon encourages the U of L community to attend the site selection presentations and to present feedback to the Destination Project website.
“The planning conducted today, the questions and concerns raised by our community and the careful consideration by the various planning bodies of those questions and concerns must serve the University for the next 50 years,” says Mahon.