Western University to launch community-focused programs with new building on Talbot Street

Western University purchased the downtown property at 450 Talbot St. in London, Ont., for $7.3 million to implement 'community-focused' programs and events. . via Google Maps/July 2018

Ranging from free legal aid and medical outreach to Indigenous art exhibits, Western University’s new downtown space at 450 Talbot St. in London, Ont., is set to be filled with “community-focused” programs and events.

The three-storey building was purchased by the university last October for $7.3 million.

Built in 1906-07 for clothing manufacturer Greene-Swift, the structure was converted to office space in the 1950s.

Now undergoing major renovations, the building will soon be home to 13 projects and services in the hopes of “creating and strengthening diverse partnerships between Western and London residents off-campus,” according to the Western University media release.

“London is home, and we’re thrilled that Western will have a more integrated and visible presence in the downtown core,” said Western president Alan Shepard. “450 Talbot offers exciting opportunities to work side-by-side with our community partners to build an even stronger, healthier and more vibrant city and region.”

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The university asked departments, units and faculty for proposals that could demonstrate new initiatives between Western students and the London community. According to Western University, the site is gearing up to have:

  • Community outreach with partners in medicine and health, including 519 Pursuit, Habitat for Humanity, London Food Bank, Boys & Girls Club, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Safe Space and Project Hope as part of the Medical Science Outreach (MASCOT) program (Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry).
  • A pediatrics hub, SPIKE (Social Pediatrics Innovation, Knowledge, and Engagement), to provide health care to children and youth from marginalized and underserved populations.
  • Community legal services relocation, for clients needing legal assistance with family law (parenting time, child and spousal support, and child welfare), criminal matters (summary conviction matters and provincial offences), tenants’ rights, small-claims civil disputes, and consumer rights and contract disputes (faculty of law).
  • An Indigenous gallery and program space.
  • The new home of the Mary J. Wright Child & Youth Development Clinic.
  • A social and environmental justice gallery and exhibition space led by the faculty of arts and humanities.
  • A community video studio led by the faculty of media and information studies.
  • Western Living Lab (WeLL), a community teaching, training and research space centred on human health and well-being headed by the faculty of health sciences.
  • A community-engaged learning hub where students and partners from non-profit and community-based London organizations can work collaboratively on projects.
  • Alternative-format courses for Western’s local government program (political science).
  • A Western Research ‘collaboratorium’ and event space.
  • A catering kitchen and event space (hospitality services).
  • General, multi-purpose shared space.

With planning still in the early stages, the university said an estimated cost for the construction has not been determined. However, renovations are expected to be complete in late 2023.

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“I am delighted to see the plans for Western’s downtown hub – it has been well worth the wait,” said John Fyfe-Millar, Ward 13 councillor for the City of London. “These initiatives provide Londoners the opportunity to collaborate with the university in thoughtful and meaningful ways that build on a strong relationship and help Western thrive in our downtown.”

Shepard added that the site will be a great example of the increased local community engagement the university is working to achieve with the Towards Western at 150 strategic plan.

“We can provide enhanced, experiential learning for our students while at the same time offering services and creating connections that will benefit both the university and the wider community,” said Shepard. “I see this as a win-win for Western and for London.”

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