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Community to ‘transform’ Guelph’s Kemptville ag campus

Former OAC campus in eastern Ontario to become community hub

The home municipality for Ontario Agricultural College’s (OAC) former Kemptville campus is set to remake the site as an “education and community hub.”

The municipality of North Grenville, which includes Kemptville, about 40 km south of Ottawa, closed a deal in December to purchase the Kemptville ag campus, with the official transfer due to take place March 28.

The deal will see North Grenville buy much of the main Kemptville campus and surrounding property, including 34 buildings on about 633 acres of land.

An agreement announced Wednesday between the municipality and the province will see the “majority” of the Kemptville campus transform into an “education and community hub that focuses on: education and training, health and wellness and economic development, emphasizing climate change resiliency and low-carbon innovation.”

The plan follows through on former federal agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief’s 2014 review of options for the campus.

The University of Guelph, operator of OAC, announced earlier that year it would wind down operations at its Kemptville and Alfred OAC campuses.

North Grenville, on its website, said the Kemptville campus “has long been recognized as a defining element of the local community” and the university’s 2014 decision “came as a shock to many farmers, residents, businesses — and potential students.”

Vanclief, in a report commissioned by the Ontario government, recommended the province transfer the property to the municipality.

The province, in a release Wednesday, said it worked withe the municipality toward a deal “which would support the municipality’s vision of the hub as a place for education and training, health and wellness and economic development.”

Community hubs, the province said, are “locally-driven.” The provincial government’s role is to “make it easier for community partners to offer services that are integrated and co-ordinated, strengthening community partnerships and making the best use of public space.”

Management and maintenance of the new Kemptville campus will be through a wholly-owned not-for-profit corporation operating at arm’s length from the North Grenville government, the municipality said in a separate release.

The mandate for the not-for-profit, the municipality said, will be to develop the Kemptville Campus Education and Community Hub as a “multi-tenant” site.

Some of the campus land and building infrastructure has already been “repurposed” for use by multiple French- and English-language school boards for early years, elementary, secondary, adult education and “related community service activities,” the municipality said.

“Discussion with a number of other education and community groups are ongoing with the objective of leasing all available space on the campus.”

“It has been an extensive process, but we are extremely pleased that an agreement has been reached, and we are looking forward to further exploring the possibilities for the development of the hub and the benefits it will bring to our community,” North Grenville Mayor David Gordon said in the province’s release.

“By working together, we are ensuring that the Kemptville site continues to be a positive economic asset for the community and for Ontario,” provincial Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal said in the same release.

“The Kemptville campus played a pivotal role for agriculture in Eastern Ontario for the past 100 years. Its transformation to an education and community hub under the direction of North Grenville positions it to play an equally relevant and innovative role over the next century.”

The campus was set up in 1917 as Kemptville College to “support and strengthen” farming practices in eastern Ontario. It became part of the University of Guelph in 1997, and got the “campus” designation in 2006.

North Grenville said it plans to hold a press conference sometime this week to “communicate additional information” on the future of the Kemptville site. –– AGCanada.com Network

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