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Described by the Vancouver Sun as the “Intellectual Heart of the City,” Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Vancouver campus was the result of a 10-year project the university undertook that changed the landscape of urban education in downtown Vancouver. The university had pioneered continuing education in the city in the early 1980s with the launch of a storefront centre, but the small space was unable to meet the public's demands.
“It was clear there was need for a downtown university centre,” said Dr. Warren Gill, then SFU’s vice-president, university relations and an urban geographer who played a key role along with SFU President Emeritus, Jack Blaney, in the development of SFU’s downtown presence. “Simon Fraser knew it had to establish the facility through private sector support.”
After years of planning, SFU achieved Blaney and Gill’s vision and officially opened a rebuilt and revitalized 1927 Spencer building at 515 West Hastings Street on May 5, 1989, as the official home of SFU’s Vancouver campus in the Harbour Centre complex.
611 Alexander Visual Art Studios
In 1993, SFU’s School for Contemporary Arts began using the 611 Alexander St space as a Visual Art studio and classroom for the undergraduate program and as a teaching and studio space for the MFA program. The large open spaces and extra high ceilings in the 611 Alexander St space are ideally suited to students’ creative projects and assignments.
The 611 Alexander St space plays a crucial role in SCA program delivery and use of the space has intensified since the SCA moved downtown to the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts building at SFU Woodwards.
Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue
In 2001, SFU Vancouver expanded with the addition of the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue. The Centre was created within a heritage bank building at 580 West Hastings Street and is named after a longtime friend of SFU. The building was a gift to the university from Peter Eng, whose company developed the adjacent hotel, residential and retail complex.
Segal Graduate School of Business
In 2002, SFU received an incredibly generous donation from Joseph and Rosalie Segal, the gift of a 1916 heritage building located at the corner of Granville and Pender, in the heart of the city’s financial district. A former Bank of Montreal building, it was renamed the Segal Graduate School of Business and is home for SFU’s Beedie School of Business’ graduate programs.
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
In September 2010, SFU proudly opened the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts at the historic Woodward’s site at 149 West Hastings Street. With its completion, Simon Fraser committed approximately $150 million to the establishment and improvement of university facilities in downtown Vancouver. This was made possible through the generosity of individuals, organizations, corporations and all levels of government.
The Goldcorp Centre for the Arts is the new home for SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, the Audain Gallery, and SFU Woodward’s Cultural and Community Program unit, which includes the Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Located in the heart of the city, the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts is home to stunning cultural and multipurpose facilities and has created many new partnerships within the city’s cultural fabric.
SFU Collection at Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art
In September 2011, the Bill Reid Foundation gifted its entire collection of Northwest Coast art, worth more than $10 million and consisting of 158 works (including 112 masterworks by Bill Reid) to Simon Fraser University.
In return, SFU contracted the Bill Reid Foundation to manage the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, located at 639 Hornby Street in downtown Vancouver. The building also houses SFU's Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Art Studies.
Charles Chang Innovation Centre
In 2016, the footprint of SFU's Vancouver campus expanded significantly, with two new facilities opening. The first was the Charles Chang Innovation Centre, a new graduate residence and innovation facility at 380 West Hastings, and the second was the new SFU VentureLabs space in the tower adjacent to SFU's Vancouver campus Harbour Centre building at 555 West Hastings. Both facilities are important elements in SFU Innovates, the university's strategic plan to support social innovation and entrepreneurship, wherein students, faculty and community partners develop enterprising solutions to social, economic and technological challenges. These two programs further advance SFU's status as the leading engaged university in the dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting edge research and far reaching community engagement.
312 Main Street
Built in 1953, 312 Main was the site of Vancouver’s former police headquarters, at the corner of Main and Cordova in the heart of Vancouver’s inner city. Over the past few years, it has been in the process of being reshaped into an inclusive community hub, co-location space for community organizations focusing on social and environmental justice, and workspace for local changemakers.
SFU's 312 Knowledge Mobilization project is part of 312 Main's vision to be a Global Center for Social and Economic Innovation. It is home to a dynamic community of entrepreneurs, artists and organizations committed to economic and social democracy, empowering one another — and the neighbourhood they are part of — to thrive.
In Spring 2019, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement relocated some of its community-based programming to 312 Main. In January 2020, 312 Main officially opened to the public and is now home to SFU’s Community-Engaged Research initiative (CERi), SFU Public Square and place-based programming from SFU’s Lifelong Learning division. Their new location provides community members and groups better access to SFU programs and resources, while making it easier for faculty, students and staff to benefit from our community initiatives and services.
Where We Sit Now
From a small storefront space on Howe Street in the early 1980's to a pervasive, ubiquitous presence across the educational precinct downtown, SFU Vancouver's presence in and impact on the city of Vancouver has increased dramatically. SFU's presence downtown has now expanded to nine facilities covering over half a million square feet.
SFU Vancouver serves approximately 10,000 credit and non-credit students and hosts over 11,000 events for staff, faculty, conference clientele and visitors annually. In addition to leading-edge research programs, a wide and varying range of undergraduate courses are offered each semester. Professional graduate degrees are available in business, gerontology, international studies, liberal studies, public policy, publishing and urban studies. A unique program in liberal and business studies offers the opportunity for degree completion for those already in the work force. Thousands of other individuals, groups and companies attend SFU conferences, lectures, performances and exhibitions or are involved in courses, seminars and meetings organized externally, but held at SFU Vancouver.