In December, London’s Investment and Economic Prosperity Committee made five recommendations to stimulate the city’s economy, but a downtown Western campus was not one of them.
The University submitted a proposal asking the City to transfer ownership of City Hall and other downtown buildings, and provide $10 million for renovations. In exchange, the University would improve the downtown economy by providing jobs and generating business.
An analysis of the proposal released by the IEPC estimated the project costs to be $100 million—a price too high for the current administration.
The analysis explained, “The idea of a Western downtown campus remains a very exciting proposition; however, given the zero tax increase environment, and the potential cost of the proposal, Civic Administration cannot recommend the submitted proposal at this time.”
“I want Western downtown,” Dale Henderson, Ward 9 councillor and IEPC member, said. “But, at this point, let’s start creating some jobs without figuring out how we can spend $100 million of taxpayers’ money.”
Keith Marnoch, director of media and community relations, understood the City’s decision.
“I think it was guided somewhat by dollars that they thought they could consider with regards to the projects, and I guess it wasn’t a perfect fit at the moment,” he said. “It had to make sense and be beneficial for both ourselves and the city to move forward with.”
In spite of this proposal’s denial, the University will continue to try to work with the city in any way possible.
“We will continue to try to figure out a way that we can make ourselves available to the city for future opportunities, but it needs to work for both sides,” Marnoch said.
Last night, Henderson proposed a recommendation that suggested Western open a downtown business program for entrepreneurs. The program would enable students to open their own company under the guidance of professors and then integrate their company into the city to stimulate the economy.
According to Henderson, his recommendation would provide new jobs without costing taxpayers.
“Let’s get some students downtown, let’s get some jobs created downtown. We’re not going after the taxpayer for money here,” Henderson said. “We’ll see how we are at getting into the job of making companies and the university can make some money, because there’s free space. “You may have to pay the professor, but there’s tuition coming at you. That’s what we’re all about—there’s job creation and money all around,” Henderson said.
According to Henderson, this recommendation provides an excellent opportunity for Western.
“Western has the prime opportunity. We’re not asking any money from them. They have a great position as a first refusal and they just have to get going,” she said.