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George Brown College bringing its bustle to the waterfront
February 23, 2010 | Peter Kuitenbrouwer | National Post
"There have been a lot of condos built on the lake shore over the past couple of decades, but this may be the first purpose-built facility coming to Toronto’s waterfront at which citizens will be able to (inexpensively) get their teeth cleaned.

The dental hygiene clinic is just a small part of a big, glittering, $175-million Waterfront Campus for which contractors hired by George Brown College began this month digging out the soggy fill at the foot of Sherbourne Street, south of Queens Quay. The campus is set for completion in fall 2011.

“It’s finally animating the waterfront, taking [more than 3,500] students down there,” says Anne Sado, president of George Brown. “We will operate the campus seven days a week, because of continuing education.”

George Brown, using a style similar to Ryerson University, has in the past few years expanded its campus on King Street east of Jarvis with buildings that invite and welcome the public, and blur the line between the campus and the community -- a pattern the school plans to continue at its new campus, which will house school’s burgeoning school of health sciences.

George Brown, with 22,000 full time students and 68,000 in continuing education, has grown quickly. The other day Ms. Sado met me for lunch at The Chef’s House to tell me a bit about her college’s future.

George Brown has for years operated a restaurant as part of its renowned cooking school; the restaurant formerly was tucked away in one of the school’s buildings, down a hall and up a flight of stairs. A few years ago Ms. Sado noticed the former Pasquale Bros. grocery store building on King and Frederick street was for sale; George Brown snapped it up, sand-blasted the place within an inch of its life, exposed the wrought-iron posts and, in the fall of 2008, opened a high-end eatery in the space.

At The Chef’s House, three-course gourmet lunch costs $22, and you get to watch the cooks prepare your meal on flat-screen TVs affixed to the walls. Bethune, our waiter, was a perfect gentleman, and I can safely recommend the red beet, celeriac and pear salad with goat cheese dressing (the tiny oregano buds were a particularly inspiring detail) as well as the apple frangipane tart with cheddar cheese ice cream.

The restaurant bustled with patrons (the public is welcome) as did King Street around George Brown. One can see why -- in seeking to animate the shore -- John Campbell, the head of Waterfront Toronto, called Ms. Sado.

George Brown is a good fit; the existing St. James campus is just a 10-minute walk up Sherbourne Street from the new facilities. Plus George Brown is bursting at the seams.

“We need the space,” Ms. Sado says. “This will allow us to consolidate and create an environment for interprofessional education.” Ms. Sado, also chair of the board at Trillium Health Centre, a Mississauga hospital, believes in training health professionals as an interdependent, patient-focused team. “It will be an open, vibrant learning environment with lots of light,” she promises.

George Brown, using $61.5-million in provincial money, $30-million from Ottawa, and its own money plus fundraising dollars, plans two buildings totalling half a million square feet, on land the school will lease from the City of Toronto.

The first college building, closest to Lake Ontario, will house nursing, dental, health and wellness, gerontology and other programs.

The school wants to talk to the city about teaming up to design the second building, which will house a gym -- open to the public evenings and weekends -- along with, potentially, a community centre. A street, known right now as Dockside Drive, will bisect the two buildings, east-west.

The city is at present building Sherbourne Park along the east side of the new George Brown campus, and Brian Stock, a college spokesman, has a dreamy vision of how the future might look.

“Imagine if you’re skating at the park, and then you go across to our food court for a hot chocolate,” he says.

Either that, or a nice teeth cleaning."

National Post, Peter Kuitenbrouwer, February 23, 2010