CHILLIWACK, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Dec. 7, 2012) - In what will be the largest donation it has ever received, the University of the Fraser Valley will take ownership in early 2013 of the former BMO Bank of Montreal branch building at historic Five Corners in downtown Chilliwack.
The university will renovate and refurbish the facility in order to create UFV Plaza, a downtown education centre with a focus on programming related to business development and training.
BMO Financial Group will donate the land and building, valued at approximately $850,000, to the university. The Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO) will provide up to $650,000 to renovate the building, bringing the total value of the project to approximately $1.5 million.
"We see a real value in having a space right at the core of Chilliwack's downtown," said UFV president Mark Evered. "This generous donation by BMO and the additional support provided by CEPCO will help us to play a lead role in the revitalization of the area and address the educational needs of the business community."
BMO has been serving customers in Chilliwack for over 106 years. The branch had been at the Five Corners location over this time, but in different buildings.
"BMO Bank of Montreal was very pleased to open a new Chilliwack branch at Eagle Landing in October, 2012 with an investment of $1.7 million," said Henry Donkers, Vice President, Personal Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal. "Our employees are excited to be offering the full range of financial services in up-to-date premises, six days a week."
"At BMO we see this donation as a triple win. Not only does the use of our former branch building assist the university in its goal to launch a downtown business learning centre, it aligns nicely with CEPCO's mission to stimulate economic partnerships and activity in the region. We also foresee the exceptional value of UFV Plaza as a centre of business learning - for small to medium sized businesses clients and for the all-important agribusiness sector," said Dean Kirkham, Vice President, Commercial Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal.
CEPCO, the economic development arm of the City of Chilliwack, is responsible for promoting and enabling the economic growth of the community; it sees the value in having a university presence in the downtown core, according to CEPCO president John Jansen.
"We believe that by investing in the building in its new role as an education centre for the business community, we will be further facilitating the rejuvenation of downtown Chilliwack," said Jansen. "Having the university there as the centerpiece of redevelopment will send a strong message about the future direction of downtown."
The City of Chilliwack is supportive of this initiative as part of its commitment to revitalizing the downtown core.
"I truly appreciate BMO's reinvestment in the downtown core demonstrating mindful corporate citizenship. This will add to UFV's visibility and influence in the City and continues the positive momentum for the new downtown direction," said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.
Harv McCullough, UFV's vice president of external relations and a long-time Chilliwack resident, said that receiving such a major donation from one of Canada's leading financial institutions, along with the support of the city of Chilliwack through CEPCO, signifies a new era in the development of the university.
"This donation from BMO Financial Group, the largest we've ever received, will serve as a signal to other large corporations that we have arrived as a major university, worthy of their investment," he said. "CEPCO's contribution shows that the city recognizes the important role UFV plays as an economic driver in our community. As a university, civic and corporate investments like this are what we require in order to grow and keep up with the expanding Fraser Valley population."
Once the renovation is complete the UFV Plaza education centre will include classrooms, a boardroom, and office space for UFV instructors and staff.
It will offer a variety of courses, workshops, and programs to support the business community. Programming will focus on professional development and continuing studies, and custom courses may be designed and offered at the request of the community.
"I really see this as an incubation centre to support existing small businesses and start-ups, so we will be listening to the community to find out what they need in terms of education and training," said McCullough.
The new facility will be located in close proximity to the offices of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, CEPCO, and the Downtown Chilliwack Business Improvement Association, allowing for greater cooperation and synergy between the university and these groups.
Renovation work will begin in the new year, with the UFV Plaza expected to open in September 2013.