Construction began at the future site of the Centre for Computing and Engineering yesterday. When it’s finished, the centre will look like the graphic above.

Image courtesy University Advancement

SuperBuild digs in, but funding needed

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By Jordan Heath-Rawlings

Ryerson began construction preparations yesterday at the future site of the Centre for Computing and Engineering, despite being nearly $24 million short of the funding the building requires.

University Advancement is beginning a fundraising campaign that hopes to raise that money by offering donors naming rights to any room in the building. But that campaign has just begun, and director of campus planning and facilities Ian Hamilton said that Ryerson won’t hesitate to pay forward for the construction if the money isn’t there when the building requires it.

“We will use mortgage financing to bridge our shortfall until fundraising comes through,” Hamilton said. “University advancement would then be able to fundraise on their own timetable.”

Backhoes and trucks from Aecon Buildings began clearing debris and concrete from the site on Tuesday, after Ryerson awarded the company a $250,000 contract last week to clear the site and dig to a depth of about eight feet.

According to Aecon, Ryerson is awarding construction contracts for the building in smaller pieces in order to get the best deal and as a way to better break down their funding.

“They’re trying to get the early work done now so that they don’t lost time waiting for their funding to come through,” said Curt Washer, eastern president of Aecon. “I would think the rest [of the contracts] will be worth more.”

Currently, Ryerson has just under $41 million of the $65 million it will cost to complete the project. Of that amount, $40 million came from the Ontario government’s SuperBuild growth fund, and Ryerson has fundraised just under #1 million.

To get the $24 million needed to finance the project the rest of the way, Gordon Cressy, vice-president of university advancement, has come up with what he calls “a menu of opportunities” for prospective donors to decide from. On the list is every room in the new building.

It takes $15 million to acquire naming rights to the building itself, but the cheapest individual labs and staffrooms go for just $100,000 each. Although this raises specters of corporatization of the university, Cressy said he doesn’t expect the every inch of the school to be sold.

“Our expectation and hope is that about half of what’s on the menu will be sold,” he said. “The joke in fundraising today is that you try to sell everything but the boiler room, because nobody wants to buy the rights to that.

“In reality though, it doesn’t happen.”

Cressy said that most often it is individuals who are willing to pony up for naming rights to the building itself.

“Look around Ryerson,” he said. “Pitman Hall, Kerr Hall, the Olive Baker Lounge. These are all contributions from individual alumni, not corporations.”

But Cressy also agrees that it may take a long time for those individuals to come out of the woodwork, even with his team of campaigners canvassing alumni.

“A good donation often takes 18 months to come through from start to finish,” he said. “As well, everyone gives better when [the economy] is going well, which hasn’t happened right now. It’s been hard but it hasn’t stopped us.

“What it may mean is that it takes us an extra year to raise the money.”

Despite an economic climate that isn’t favourable to large cash or stock donations, Cressy was confident that fundraising delays wouldn’t slow down construction.

“The building will go up,” he said. “It’s just a matter of cash flow — if the last phase of fundraising takes a little longer, the university may have to mortgage while we pay that back.”

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