Alberni’s new university nearly complete

It's taken a year but construction of Pacific Coast University is nearly complete. There were challenges though, Wolfgang Zimmermann said.

NIDMAR executive director Wolfgang Zimmermann tours the nearly finished Pacific Coast University in Port Alberni.

The building is finished and new supporters have come on board as Pacific Coast University edges ever closer to completion.

Nanaimo-Albenri MP James Lunney and Port Alberni mayor Ken McRae toured the facility on Tuesday with Wolfgang Zimmermann, the executive director of the National Institute of Disability Management and Research.

“This was raw land when I was here last – they had to cut through some trees so we could get in here,” Lunney said.

“Look at this facility – you guy have worked so hard to pull this together.”

The  $5-million building will be ready for occupation on Friday and furniture will be moved in by the end of the month.

The building contains classrooms, offices, a library and a 103-seat lecture hall, which may be available for community use after hours.

Only the paving and landscaping outside the building remain to be completed.

“It’s weather dependent – Port Alberni weather dependent,” Zimmermann said.

Construction largely went unimpeded, but there were challenges.

The organization’s $250,000 funding application to the Island Coastal Economic Trust fell through.

The organization had to borrow against its endowment and alter its plans midway.

“That was an unsatisfactory experience and that’s putting it mildly,” Zimmermann said.

“We’re trying to fundraise to replenish our endowment now.”

And extra resources had to be directed toward ground work.

“The soil conditions weren’t good, but we did what we needed to do to get it done,” he said.

The university received a shot in the arm with sponsorships from Europe.

Curim Software of Dublin, Ireland – which develops disability management software  – has given the university $75,000 and will have second floor rooms in the building named after them.

The German equivalent of the worker’s compensation board has pledged its support as well.

The Ontario public service has adopted NIDMAR’s return to work disability management model,  for which it receives royalties and licensing fees.

And discussions are being held with Canada Post and the Manitoba government to do the same.

The building might be finished but there’s still work to be done.

Starting in April, the head office in Victoria will slowly begin to switch their base of operation to Port Alberni.

An interim president has to be recruited.

The institution’s first undergraduate degree has to be developed.

And the institute’s endowment has to be replenished.

Nevertheless, “We’ve been successful beyond our dreams,” Zimmermann said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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