CAMPUS ASSETS | HIGHER EDUCATION

Building hybrid facilities that foster inclusive and educentric campus communities.

Part 1: Abstract

There is a demonstrable need in the higher education sector for institutions to understand how and why they ought to fund/finance, plan, design, and construct hybrid facilities. The fusion of accommodations and amenities with an institution’s brand identity, ethos, and legacy has been proven to unify the institution’s on-campus population, attract more future students, bolster experiential educational spaces and student performance, and increase revenues exponentially; while meeting sustainability targets and fostering diverse, inclusive and sought-after post-secondary environments.

Gone are the days of on-campus residences and academic buildings that are de facto underpopulated, underutilized and deserted during the summer months.

The Centennial Residence & Culinary Arts Centre
Credit: Joe Baker

Part 2: Campus Assets

Campus Assets’ purpose is to unlock the potential of on-campus and fringe campus assets. Although on-campus assets are the focus, securing off-campus developments which meet acquisition criteria is also explored.

“Academia has always pushed for innovation and collaboration within the classroom and I think that leads to a natural extension to examine the existing delivery and execution model used within the higher education space. What we’re able to bring forth by engaging the right people in the right communities, through an inclusive approach and comprehensive processes, has proven to be nothing short of remarkable.” – Patrick Miksa, founding partner of Campus Assets

The courtyard of the Centennial Residence & Culinary Arts Centre.
Credit: Joe Baker

Part 3: Process

Campus Assets is interested in propelling projects, people and institutions forward. It is not interested in competing with institutions but in partnering with them to lead projects which achieve excellence and measurable successes for students and institutions alike, employing a vision of academic excellence while serving all stakeholders’ needs. Building better-served on-campus communities and the financial success of an institution are intrinsically correlated.

Campus Assets bridges gaps that institutions of higher education are unable to bridge themselves. This is accomplished from beginning to end through meaningful, expert collaborations, by identifying and empowering stakeholders to champion a vision that, once achieved, will effect measurable change on campus and for the institution as a whole.

The practice of engaging in a holistic process—including the institution’s leaders, the design team, and the steering committee from inception—is fundamentally tied to the success of the institute vis-à-vis on-campus hybrid facilities.

The LOCAL, located in the Centennial Residence & Culinary Arts Centre
Credit: Joe Baker

Part 4: People

Campus Assets was created to address the challenges in today’s higher-ed environment. With nearly 15 years of experience and regarded as a pioneer and a leader within the Canadian academic asset marketplace, Patrick Miksa is a founding partner of Campus Assets Inc. Miksa establishes vision, policy, planning and culture for all real estate development activities; leads the development team and is responsible for its strategic planning. He takes leadership roles on projects with responsibility for the relationship, legal and financial aspects of the project and drives the team to deliver on budget and schedule.

Exterior view of the Centennial Residence & Culinary Arts Centre
Credit: Joe Baker

Case Study – Centennial Residence & Culinary Arts Centre

Impetus

Centennial College of Applied Arts and Technology is located in Toronto, Canada. It is the oldest publicly-funded college in Ontario. Centennial is a remarkably diverse college, with almost 100 ethno-cultural groups represented on campus and about 80 languages spoken.1

The old student residence located on the Scarborough campus was a Howard Johnson hotel that the college acquired more than 20 years ago. It was in severe decline and there was the increasingly inconsistent quality of off-campus rental housing in the area at the time (even so, international students were typically living off-campus). Centennial College was approaching insolvency, with the underutilized residence a tangible reminder of the existential threat facing the college. While it may seem counterintuitive for an institution on the brink of bankruptcy to envision a transformational project, this was the decisive moment that saved Centennial College.

Demand and feasibility analyses were conducted by The Scion Group, a consulting firm in Chicago—the market demand was determined to be approximately 750 students. The vision for the project shifted and expanded in scope, along with the requirements for knowledgeable consultants and visionary project managers in the academic real estate space.

“We needed opportunities for the students who live outside the area and for international students to stay on campus. We also needed new hospitality, classroom and academic space.

We needed both a business model and partners that could make that happen. This needed all the people at the table who saw it this way and were willing to work this way, to build a practical working residence that drove revenue for the companies involved.”

Ann Buller

President Emeritus, Centennial College

Design

The declining condition of the existing Residence facility and the increasing inconsistent quality of off-campus rental housing in the area surrounding the Centennial College Progress Campus prompted the College’s executive to consider replacing the existing on-campus student housing in order to offer high-quality accommodation aligned with student preferences. On August 30, 2013, Centennial College issued an RFP with the intention that the proponent selected would design, build, finance, operate and maintain a new student housing facility and would be required to enter into a contractual agreement with the College where all hard and soft project costs are borne by the developer in return for a ground lease and rental payment to the College.

The Board approved the project and successful proponent in December, 2013. Patrick Miksa was vice president of academic assets at that time for the proponent and responsible for the overall business operations and strategic initiatives for all academic and institutional assets.

All requirements included within the new revised design is being constructed and paid for by [the proponent] with no capital investment required from the College. The college would sublease back the academic portion of the building, with an annual rental obligation, with a coincident term to the ground lease. At the end of the term, the subleased premises would be owned by the College as part of the facility. Construction began in October, 2014 and is slated for completion during the Spring of 2016 with the new facility opening for the academic year beginning September 1, 2016. 2

Jason Taylor was the senior vice president of The Scion Group, the consulting firm engaged by Brad Chapman, who was then the CFO of Centennial college, to conduct feasibility analyses for new campus housing. Taylor explains the overarching mandate of the planning and RFP processes for how the campus housing would meld with the college’s strategic plan, inclusive of academics and its strategic enrollment plan.

“There was a competitive RFP process…. We felt really great about having a team that was in Ontario, in the GTA, in the case of Patrick and his team. They understood the imperative was not the real estate, the imperative was the students,” says Taylor.

Taylor explains that Miksa and his team understood the necessity of planning with a focus on student development. As a result of the Centennial facility, the college has been able to attract the best faculty. Because they now have a renowned facility. Centennial is now capable of providing students with a uniquely productive, successful, exceptional academic experience.

“Forgetting the residential part, look at how the partnership was able to exceed their expectations,” says Taylor. He believes the project has been successful beyond Centennial’s wildest dreams for its culinary academic program. “In terms of the residential experience, there’s just no question that it is a feather in the cap of the college.”

Taylor harkens back to the day when he first saw the location. It is visible from the highway and felt a bit like a mall. “It was a big parking lot for me,” says Taylor. “You look at it now and it is truly an academic institution.”

Jason Taylor

formerly of The Scion Group that managed the RFP and analyses for the Centennial project.

Outcome (a)

Brad Chapman was CFO and vice president of business development for Centennial College at the time of the project. It has been four years since the project was completed, has the transformation of the residence into a hybrid facility paid off? “We absolutely knocked it out of the park. When we opened we were probably around 65 to 70 per cent occupancy from a capacity perspective. Within the second year, we were at a hundred per cent,” says Chapman.

The new building would be much more than a student residence. Situated at the entrance to Progress Campus in Scarborough, the eight-storey building encompasses a new Culinary Arts Centre on the ground level, complete with seven labs, a teaching restaurant, and eight new classrooms. The labs are naturally lit with enormous glass panels so that passersby can see our students learning in our professional facilities. A conference/banquet centre on the top level is serviced by the kitchens below, with space for up to 450 guests in the conference centre and up to 500 students in the labs and classrooms. The new building is a quadrangle, 353,500 square foot building with a central courtyard to allow natural light to reach all of the residence rooms. There is space for 740 students in two- and four-bed suites. Each resident will have his or her own bedroom. There are communal kitchens and lounge spaces where students can congregate. The residence floors are highly secure and inaccessible from the academic parts of the building.3

According to Chapman: The ethos of the project was equity, diversity and inclusion; the purpose of the project was to transform the student housing and academic programs. The college’s executive referred to its strategic plan as the “book of commandments,” which included a commandment to redefine the relationship between education, experience and employment.

This redefinition was achieved. Chapman states that the experiential learning and the environment provided through the new residence allow for the formation of meaningful connections, thus transforming the lives of Centennial’s students and its community. This was the ultimate objective as designed and facilitated by Patrick Miksa and team.

“Having that state-of-the-art facility has allowed us to attract significant donors to the college,” said Chapman. Donors participate and fund scholarships for students while providing co-op opportunities. It has been a huge benefit for that as well.”

The growth of colleges attended by international students over the last 10 years has been huge. At Centennial, Chapman estimates 50 per cent of enrollments are international students. The new facility meets the school’s and students’ needs. If he were to go back and do anything differently, Champan says he would have added another floor of academic space to the building.

“We didn’t have it at a facility like this, all of our events and meetings went off-site and now it’s all on-campus. This is a shift that not only significantly boosts revenue for the college, but vital learning opportunities for the students happen within the institution. I’m in my 18th year with the college. I’m still here because it has been so rewarding, not only to me but to the institution in terms of what we’ve done. My objective is to get a building like this for every school…. I think it’s critically important to our students to have these quality facilities,” says Chapman.

“The design of the building led to interaction between residents. The suites are not isolated, they encourage connection, involvement, community groups. All the research shows that strong connections—to each other, causes, curriculum and the institution—lead to greater success. The broader vision was teaching and supporting resilience, academics, problem-solving and critical thinking; working in a multicultural, diverse world. The residence became an example of all of that, it became our learning lab for inclusion and engagement,” concludes Chapman.

“When I was recruited from George Brown College to become Dean at Centennial College, I had no idea I was being asked to completely redefine the modern hospitality and tourism school. Knowing I was working with Patrick and his team was both a great source of relief and a great source of excitement for me. We entered into this new era of design together with a sense of humility and a tenacity that would be tested regularly over the coming years. What we created was something truly extraordinary. Some say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime creation, but I don’t buy into that. I was confident it was just the beginning.”

Joe Baker

Dean at Centennial College at the time of the Centennial project

Outcome (b)

Joe Baker was the dean of Centennial College’s School of Hospitality at the time of the project. According to Baker, Centennial has had a long history of teaching hospitality and culinary arts in various forms. Hospitality programs and even culinary programs, then identified as home economics, were some of the original programs at the Warden Woods campus that opened in 1966. Before the new building was designed, the school was one of the smaller at the College in terms of enrolment and financial contribution. When Baker took over as dean in 2014, enrolment was 900 students annually with a top-line revenue of $11 million. There was a restaurant and catering program that generated under $500,000 annually. Three years later—arguably led by the efforts of Baker and Miksa—the school and the building were brought back to life, those numbers had grown exponentially with 2,400 new students, more than $30 million in overall revenue including almost $2 million in academic enterprise revenue.

The most significant differentiator of the new school was the experiential learning ecosystem co-created by Baker and Miksa. With Baker’s vision for programs delivered in an industry immersive environment, Miksa helped ensure the design and execution of the quick service café, full-service restaurant, event venue and hotel-style guest suites were built to Baker’s exacting standards and authentically emulating a hospitality industry setting. All during design and construction, Baker was working tirelessly to build a team and programs that would prepare the future workforce of the global hospitality and tourism industry. Once physical facilities and renewed academic programs came together, the school rapidly took its place among the best Canadian hospitality and tourism schools.

“At the core of the success of this project was a symbiotic relationship with Miksa. This was a true strategic partnership. In the early phases, it was about conducting needs analyses, identifying the competitive space and co-creating the physical manifestation of the future of higher education. From shared vision to shared values, this partnership algorithm yielded results. Financial, growth, reputational and perhaps most significantly, the creation of a sense of community that would go on to transform the lives of the students, staff, faculty and guests for years to come,” says Baker.

“Patrick approached every step of this project with an open mind and an empathetic ear. He listened to what I was trying to create and he put all of his weight behind my ideas. We created a school that would go on to become world-calibre well beyond my tenure as Dean. We built something together that was grounded in our local community of Scarborough but was also bold and versatile enough to become the backdrop of an impressive number of international events and celebrations. We entered the hyper-competitive space of global hospitality and tourism education as an underdog and over a matter of a few years leapt to the front of the pack. The building, school, programs, enterprises, and team members became award winners. There is undeniable energy within that space that transcends our history. Our collective legacy is physically and emotionally built into that space and will remain bright for decades to come.”

Joe Baker

Dean at Centennial College at the time of the Centennial project

1 Excerpt from Things You Didn’t Know About Centennial College, www.centennialcollege.ca.

2 Excerpt from Centennial Residence & Culinary Arts Centre – Business Case to the Ministry of Colleges and University (MTCU)

3 Excerpt from Centennial Residence & Culinary Arts Centre – Business Case to the Ministry of Colleges and University (MTCU)

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