BRACEBRIDGE - A local career college has plans to expand inside the former Dura Automotive plant.
Floor plans are tacked onto the wall inside the former Dura plant on Ecclestone Drive where Willis College’s newly expanded campus will be housed.
The Bracebridge branch of the Willis College of Business, Health and Technology, located on Manitoba Street just north of Monck Road, has asked for approval to rezone lands at the Ecclestone Drive plant.
During the final town council meeting of 2011 on Dec. 21, property owner TDCI Bracebridge Inc. was given approval in principle for a rezoning application of industrial lands at 345 Ecclestone Dr., allowing for the expansion.
Although a hold on the work has been put in place until a proper noise study and other details can be completed, the hope is the new campus will be up and operational later this spring.
“We’re very excited to finally get to this point,” said Willis College owner Anthony DeMartines. “We are busy at that location and had hoped to expand for some time now.”
The 110-year-old education provider has been in Bracebridge for about 10 years.
Headquartered in Toronto, Willis College has several campuses in the GTA, as well as in Barrie, Ottawa, Cobourg, Smiths Falls, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Belleville and London.
DeMartines said the Bracebridge facility has been a bit small to meet demand locally, where the bulk of the clientele are injured workers or people who are looking for new careers later in life.
The current private career college now has a few small classrooms, big enough to only accommodate the instructor and fewer than five students each. Although the final design still needs to be worked out and the noise study completed, DeMartines explained the new facility will expand to about 5,000 square feet. The hope is to have about five classrooms, each large enough to host the instructor and between 10 and 12 students.
“What was and what will be there will be very different things,” DeMartines said, adding the expanded Bracebridge location has been approved to provide at least two new courses. “We’ve just been approved to teach the Personal Support Worker program out of that location, so new classrooms will be tailored to the needs of that course.”
He added that the Bracebridge location will also become Willis College’s home-base for a solar panel installation and repair course. The local campus already teaches diploma programs for administrative assistant, office administration, human resources and marketing, computer and essential skills training, customer service, English and academic upgrading as well as security guard training.
The rezoning affects four hectares (10 acres) of the nearly 34-hectare lot and the 118,160-square-foot building. The town will remove the hold on work once the noise study has been completed.
Staff and council also want to see more details of the proposed renovations and construction, how the school may impact neighbouring properties and then to enter into a proper site plan agreement before work can proceed.
“If everything goes our way, we could be open and ready for March, but most likely more into April; we want to complete this as soon as we can,” DeMartines said.