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WhistlerU re-branded as Whistler International Campus

Construction on private lands to begin with or without university zoning

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The developers behind Whistler's university proposal are pushing ahead with construction on their land as the community works to figure out if it wants a purpose-built learning campus in town.

The move is a message — the Alpha Creek lands are zoned for four single-family homes and outbuildings totaling more than 20,000 square feet. Those will be built regardless of what council decides regarding the university proposal.

But that's not what the developers want to do; they are looking for rezoning to allow a university, a private international high school and a leadership centre, among other things, on their land. Their proposal is a $250 million project phased over a decade.

"Let's put something that's going to benefit all of us here," said Dr. Doug Player, after announcing the official name change of WhistlerU to Whistler International Campus to better reflect what developers are trying to do.

It was clear, added Player, there was a misconception in the community the proposal was for just a university.

"We have always said we wanted to build a learning campus anchored by a university and the name change better reflects our mission and purpose," he explained.

The rezoning has been submitted to municipal staff. Council decided in June it would start a formal nine-month exploratory study into the feasibility of post-secondary education, a move initially seen as a setback by Player.

At the last council meeting, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden provided a brief update on this exploratory study. The municipality is creating an advisory task force and will be engaging a project manager.

It will soon be advertising for expressions of interest for some members of the task force, and an RFP is being developed for the education project manager, who will lead the initiative with a combination of local awareness and international experience, among other qualifications.

"This council is doing what they said they would do and that gives us some confidence but we really have not had that in the past so we're going to participate with the process, we hope they involve us, we've offered them any help they need with any stuff, and we think that's the way we rebuild the trust," Player said.

Still, concern remains and that's why construction is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

Player said if a home is built on the land in the next year, it can be transformed into the president's house or part of the leadership centre if Whistler International Campus is successful with its rezoning.

Meanwhile, he is heading to Europe in October to secure a European connection for the campus. "I've been working for two years on an agreement there and I'm quite sure I'll have it when I come back," said Player of a move that underscores the international scope of the proposal.

Check out the new website www.whistlerinternationalcampus.com to learn more about what's proposed.

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