The Fanshawe Downtown Expansion: An Open Letter to Joe Swan

Councillor Swan,

If you read nothing else in this letter please read this:

For an additional $9 million investment spread over 10 years (already budgeted for economic development so no new taxes or levies will be required) the City of London is leveraging a $40 million project into an $86 million project.

How did I reach that conclusion? Here are the numbers (please feel free to point out any errors):

Fanshawe downtown campus project (original scope):

College promised:
1000 students a year

Funding from province: $6 million
Funding from Fanshawe: $14 million
Funding from City of London: $20 million
Total funding: $40 million
Per student City of London investment over 10 years: $2000

Fanshawe downtown project Phase 1 (construction complete):

College delivered:
400 students a year

Funding from province: $6 million
Funding from Fanshawe: $4 million
Funding from City of London: $10 million

Fanshawe downtown project Phase 2 (original proposal):

College promised:
600 students a year

Funding from province: $0
Funding from Fanshawe: $10 million
Funding from City of London: $10 million

Fanshawe downtown campus project (revised scope):

College promises:
2000 students a year

Funding from province: $25 million
Funding from Fanshawe: $31 million
Funding from City of London: $29 million
Funding from Downtown London: $1 million
Total funding: $86 million
Per student City of London investment over 10 years: $1450

Fanshawe downtown project Phase 1 (construction complete – repeated from above):

College delivered:
400 students a year

Funding from province: $6 million
Funding from Fanshawe: $4 million
Funding from City of London: $10 million

Fanshawe downtown project Phase 2 (revised proposal):

College promised:
1600 students a year

Funding from province: $19
Funding from Fanshawe: $27 million
Funding from City of London: $19 million
Funding from Downtown London: $1 million

To reiterate: For an additional $9 million investment spread over 10 years (already budgeted for economic development so no new taxes or levies will be required) the City of London is leveraging a $40 million project into an $86 million project.

Indeed, if you look at the total investment from each party again:

City of London: $29 mil – Province of Ontario: $25 mil – Fanshawe College: $31 mil

You will see that this is a three way partnership and does not have London bearing significantly more burden than either of the other two major partners. It’s also worth noting that the province provides 50% of Fanshawe’s funding.

Quoting from Emerging Leaders’ excellent post on this issue “Brantford’s Post Secondary Economic Impact Study showed that students attending post-secondary institutions spend approximately $26.8 million locally on an annual basis for such items as accommodation, transportation, food, clothing and entertainment, or $6,033 per student, while estimated construction and renovation costs over the next five years will support a temporary increase in income up to $110.2 million”. A four-fold return is, without doubt, an excellent strategic investment in the heart of our city.

Fanshawe has told us all a couple of important things that don’t appear in your talking points:

  1. They are facing a space crunch and will be in a crisis by 2018. So when you keep saying that there is no urgency here you are misrepresenting the situation (three years for a project of this scale is not an abundance of time). Moving these students into a new facility is imperative to free up space at the main campus to accommodate projected growth.
  2. Fanshawe stated in Council Chambers that they have already evaluated 20 properties in the core and Kingsmill’s is the location most suitable to their requirements. Your continued assertion that there are plenty of other options is simply incorrect.

In addition, the square foot cost that you continue to spread of $660 covers not only construction, renovation, preservation and land acquisition costs but also includes all of the chattels that are required for the school. If you have visited the new downtown campus you would understand that those are not insignificant. Fanshawe builds state-of-the-art campus environments and that comes at a cost. Council trumpets our world class education facilities all the time; those don’t happen by accident or on the cheap. And let’s not forget to include the additional costs associated with having buildings attached to both sides of the structure and that we’re talking about a hospitality program which is going to require five industrial kitchens and major structural work. Fanshawe has sought the counsel of a professional 3rd party to validate its cost estimates and they agreed that the numbers are good. Do you have reason to believe that these costs have been misrepresented?

While we’re on the topic of expert opinions though, we have heard overwhelming praise for this project from heritage conservation experts (LACH), downtown merchants (LDBA), Mainstreet London, the London Chamber of Commerce, the City of London’s own planning staff and City Manager, Art Zuidema. Nobody in this city is in a better position to judge the viability of this project than these individuals and groups. The depth and breadth of experience here is simply undeniable and yet you continue to disregard their advice.

And finally, I have heard you float the idea that other suitors for the Kingsmill’s space may be waiting in the wings. This would be wonderful news if it is true; however, we have heritage buildings throughout the core that have sat vacant for years. Fanshawe has momentum, Fanshawe has a proven reputation to deliver, Fanshawe has scale, Fanshawe has a plan, Fanshawe isn’t theoretical, Fanshawe is at the table right now. I challenge you to point to another project that will have anywhere remotely close to the same impact.

Mr. Swan, I’m addressing this to you and copying my ward Councillor as you seem to be leading the charge to ensure this Fanshawe deal is scuttled. Your talking points have become their talking points and there’s so much misinformation and obfuscation in this discussion now, largely as a result of your contributions, that writing you directly seems to make more sense.

I would ask that you reconsider your position on this matter. Short of that I ask that you stop disseminating incomplete and incorrect information in the hopes of rallying public support to kill what is clearly a project that is in tight alignment with this council’s goals of heritage preservation, youth retention and economic development.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.

Shawn Adamsson
Ward 11 resident, Ward 13 business owner and proud citizen of London.
adamsson@gmail.com