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Open doors

Memorial University welcomes public to new Signal Hill Campus

By Rebecca Cohoe

Memorial’s Signal Hill Campus officially opened its doors to the public this weekend.

Members of the public, Memorial students, faculty, and staff, community partners and funders were all on the hill taking part in a variety of celebratory events, including an official ceremony and an open house.

The opening has been five years in the making.

Richard Kissoon
Signal Hill Accommodations resident and Memorial graduate student, Richard Kissoon, shares his story of community-building and entrepreneurship at the opening ceremony.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Since Memorial’s Board of Regents and the provincial government approved the purchase in 2013, the redevelopment of the former Battery Hotel site has been a major project involving extensive public consultation, planning and strategy development, demolition and subsequent construction.

“This location on historic Signal Hill will benefit people and organizations all across this province and beyond.” said Dr. Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor of Memorial University.

“Signal Hill Campus provides an exciting and iconic location for the university and community to connect and work collaboratively on a number of the province’s priorities and opportunities, including promoting and supporting innovation, entrepreneurship, and development for a more sustainable future for generations to come.”

Minister Seamus O'Regan, Dr. Gary Kachanoski, Jennifer Adams, Premier Dwight Ball
Seamus O’Regan, Dr. Gary Kachanoski, Jennifer Adams, and Premier Dwight Ball answer questions in the “living room” space.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Today, Signal Hill Campus is home to a multipurpose facility including the Emera Innovation Exchange and Signal Hill Accommodations for graduate students. A focus on public engagement and innovation is reflected in the public-facing Memorial tenants located at the facility, including Genesis, the Gardiner Centre, the Harris Centre, Newfoundland Quarterly and the Office of Public Engagement. Other tenants include the MUN Pensioners Association and public partner, Business and the Arts Newfoundland and Labrador.

The tenants, programming and partnerships based at Signal Hill Campus, along with the conference centre and bookable meeting spaces there, will help address 21st Century issues by connecting the expertise and ideas of Memorial University students, faculty, staff and retirees with the people and organizations of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“In addition to Memorial’s vision and aspiration for a world-class venue to enable and support public engagement and innovation, the decision to purchase this place was based on a pragmatic fiscally prudent business case that enabled us to address a number of key objectives identified in our campus strategic infrastructure plan,” Dr. Kachanoski said.

Public visitors

Public visitors use the signature staircase as intended during the open house, which saw over 2000 visitors from the public.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“Moving public-facing units from the St. John’s campus to this highly accessible location has helped free up much needed space which allows academic units in off-campus leased space to return to campus for significant budget savings. In addition, Signal Hill Campus provides graduate student housing for the growing number of graduate students from all over the world who are choosing to come to Memorial.”

History of support

The project has been strongly supported by the Government of Canada. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) contributed $4.5 million to the project, and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada contributed $4.12 million through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund.

“Our Government’s investment in Memorial University helps to create the right conditions for innovation and long-term growth,” said Seamus O’Regan, minister, Veterans Affairs, associate minister, National Defence, and member of Parliament for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

“It’s not only about creating jobs today; we are helping prepare young Canadians for the jobs of tomorrow. We are giving students at Memorial University the tools to take on the world and thrive at home.”

Memorial University has a long history of partnering with the people and organizations of Newfoundland and Labrador on issues of provincial importance, a tradition that will be carried on at Signal Hill Campus.

People relaxing
Young and old agree: the view from the conference centre space is something special.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Signal Hill Campus and Emera Innovation Exchange will foster public engagement, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” said Premier Dwight Ball.

“By preparing students to create new opportunities throughout the province, this landmark facility will contribute to our government’s ongoing efforts through The Way Forward to encourage private sector job creation and economic growth.”

“What we’re celebrating is much more than just a physical space,” said Dr. Kachanoski. “Already, Signal Hill Campus is helping to provide new opportunities for the students and faculty of Memorial, and by extension, Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Transformative work

A good example is the recent announcement of a $7 million contribution by Emera Inc. That investment will enable transformative work in areas of student innovation, and in innovation more broadly, across Memorial’s campuses. In recognition of this investment, the public engagement and innovation space at Signal Hill Campus has been named the Emera Innovation Exchange.

“By investing in the Emera Innovation Exchange we’re enabling collaboration that will foster new ideas and spur economic development in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for generations to come,” said Scott Balfour, Emera President and CEO.

“Emera is committed to investing in the leaders of tomorrow and we believe we are all stronger when government, business, universities and communities work together to build a sustainable future for the region.”

Another contributor is Johnson Insurance, a long-standing and valued Memorial partner. Their contribution directly supports Signal Hill Campus and enabled the construction of the signature Johnson Insurance Atrium that welcomes visitors to Signal Hill Campus.

Broad partnerships

Dr. Kachanoski said the development of Signal Hill Campus was a complex project, undertaken by a broad team of Memorial staff and faculty, including Facilities Management, the Office of Public Engagement and many others.

The work was also supported by external partners, including Lat 49 and DIALOG, who provided architectural services and Redwood Construction, the project contractor. Many people and organizations also contributed through their participation in extensive internal and external consultations that took place over the course of the project.

While Memorial tenants began moving into the space in August, this weekend’s opening marks the true launch of Signal Hill Campus, the moment where the public is invited to come in, participate and contribute to the work happening there.

“Now, the real work begins,” said Dr. Kachanoski. “The future of Memorial University is deeply connected to the future of this province, and vice-versa. We will continue to strive to be relevant and responsive to the needs of this place, a public university serving the public good.”

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