While Coun. John Tidbury recently commented at a Port Hardy council meeting he is upset that North Island College (NIC) is moving from the old mall on Trustee Road (16,000 square feet) to the Thunderbird Mall on Granville Street (6,000 square feet), NIC’s Vice President Strategic Initiatives, Randall Heidt, says the college’s new location will actually allow them to offer more classes than ever.
“It’s really a lot better of a space and it’s being purposely built for today’s college students,” Heidt said, adding the new location “will be the best ITV experience that people in Mount Waddington have ever had with the campuses first dedicated ITV line in January and then a 10 times faster ITV line installed in June.”
ITV stands for “Interactive TV”, which will be used to access university studies classes and students in Campbell River, Comox Valley, and Port Alberni.
As for Tidbury’s claim NIC might be looking to sever ties with Port Hardy, Heidt stated the college would not have “invested 1.4 million dollars into renovating a new facility in Port Hardy if we were planning to leave, and we definitely wouldn’t have signed a new five-year lease. We are going to make sure that every councillor is on the same page as us once we meet with them.”
As for why the NIC decided it was time to leave its previous location at the old mall, Heidt said the lease had come up and it was now “the perfect time to move into the heart of the community where we are closer to our partners, the North Island Employment Foundations Society and the Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre. A lot of our prospective students will now be right next door and we are aiming to be even more effective in our great new location.”
Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood stated he has not yet been able to tour the NIC’s new campus, but did confirm he is “really pleased that we will have a brand new campus on the North Island with state of the art facilities for students to use.”
When asked if he is worried about what might happen to the old mall now that NIC is moving downtown, Bood stated he is not in charge of “making sure peoples’ businesses are a success, but I do hope to see the old mall’s space being used in the future.”
NIC Campus Coordinator Caitlin Hartnett gave the Gazette an exclusive tour of the college’s new space at the Thunderbird Mall, stating she thinks of their new 6,000 square foot space as being “more about the rooms and the space being college purposed. We will have a much bigger, more accessible student lounge space and student study space, a beautiful kitchen and study area, and we have four classrooms like we had up at our old space.”
Hartnett added she thinks there has been a lot of misinformation going around about NIC. “I think there’s been rumours that we have been pulling out of Port Hardy for years, but once council sees the space, they will know it’s a testament to how we are committed to staying, because so much energy and time has been spent in creating this space for the people we serve here and who our community is. We are really excited for our opening in mid-January, we will be having an open house all day and then a grand opening celebration in the evening.”
David Graham, Director, Facilities Management for NIC stated the college will be saving “both in terms of lease costs and utility costs from not having to heat rooms that aren’t being used.”
The renovations at the Thunderbird Mall are being funded through BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education, NIC, and public donations.