Renovations to the former Olive Devaud Residence are underway as part of plans to establish a new career college campus in Powell River.
Last fall, Starium Developments owner Shih-tao Lu purchased the former seniors assisted-living care facility at the corner of Westview Avenue and Kemano Street to serve as a dormitory for Eton College Canada’s Powell River students. Eton has a partnership with Vancouver Island University (VIU) and School District 47 to offer tourism and hospitality courses. It currently operates locally out of VIU’s campus on Nootka Street.
Eton College director of operations Nicole Beaulieu said the school expects to move into its recently purchased Duncan Street building near the airport within six to 18 months, depending on the outcome of its current search for students.
“We need to establish our own independent campus,” said Beaulieu.
VIU Powell River campus administrator Greg Cran said even though there has been talk of a tourism program launching in Powell River in association with Eton since last year, because of low enrolment numbers, it has not yet started.
“If enough students enrol, we will be offering the second year of our tourism studies program, which would make a double diploma for students,” said Cran.
Cran added that VIU is looking to offer an adventure tourism certificate in September as part of a tourism studies program for VIU and Eton students.
Eton, which also has a campus in Vancouver, offers 16 programs focused on preparing students for careers in business, hospitality, travel and tourism. It markets itself to Canadian and international students. About a quarter of the students are international,
The partnership with VIU and the school district provides an opportunity for international students to apply for a three-year Canadian work permit once they complete their studies.
Beaulieu said it has become clear that the school needs to be able to provide student housing, given the current rental market and limited homestay spaces available.
She said the school is working concurrently to attract students to Powell River and find a way to provide them with accommodations while they are here.
“One of the things we were made aware of quite early into working with VIU and the school district is that it’s hard to find homestays for students here,” she said. “Olive Devaud was the right choice.”
She added the former Olive Devaud building requires some renovations, but it will serve the school’s residence purposes well.
“I’ve seen the prospectus on the building,” she said. “It’s a good building that’s been well kept.”