NSCC accepting residence proposals

HALIFAX: The search is on for a private developer willing to construct and manage a long-discussed student residence for Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area Campus over the next two years.

NSCC officials recently posted a Request For Information (RFI) notice on the provincial government’s official Web site, to gauge interest in the design, construction, financing, ownership and post-construction operation of a residence accommodating 50-to-70 students within the Town of Port Hawkesbury. Slated to close on November 1, the RFI notes that the successful applicant would assume complete responsibility for the safety and security of all students within the building – a key aspect for NSCC’s vice-president of administrative services, Monica Foster.

“It’s just seeing if this idea that we have, in order to meet our needs and minimize our risk and liability, is of any interest to anybody out there,” Foster told The Reporter last week.

“We are trying to meet our student needs. We have quite a catchment area at the Port Hawkesbury campus – we also have some unique programs, and our marine facilities are world-class. So we just feel this would be an opportunity to capitalize more on that training.”

If a developer can be found using the current tender, NSCC officials are hoping to see construction begin next spring, with the residence scheduled to open in 2018. Amenities slated for the building include vending machines, an automatic teller machine, a wireless network, a recreation/fitness area, and an entertainment/gaming room.

While a previous feasibility study conducted by Sydney-based Icon Communications in 2012 investigated the possibility of a 133-room residence to serve the Strait Area Campus, Foster suggested that the 50-to-70-student ceiling could prove more palatable to a private developer.

“What we are trying to do now is make it as viable an operation as possible, in order to encourage somebody to do it,” she explained.

“If you have 130-some beds, there’s a little more risk to it – you’ve got to fill that many beds. Based on the study, we feel the demand is out there, but it’s much better to start small and add on… than to build something big and not fill it, and then perhaps put a private company in a precarious situation because they can’t fill it.”

Addressing the situation Thursday afternoon, Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Michel Samson was pleased to see his cabinet colleagues clear the way for the NSCC’s residence-related RFI.

“Shortly after we were elected [in 2013], we started the discussions about the need for a residence at the NSCC Strait Area Campus,” Samson recalled.

“What they were hearing back from some of their customers and potential clients was the need to have short-term housing made available to their employees to be able to take the training. And because there was no residence at Strait Area Campus, apparently most of this business was going outside the province, which was a lost opportunity for them [to have a] clear revenue-generator for the facility.”