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Consulting firm helps deal with space shortage on campus

Photo by Jesse Colautti

Complaints about the lack of space on campus are a recurring issue, so the University of Ottawa administration has enlisted the help of Urban Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in campus design. The partnership, which began one year ago, aims to design and launch a comprehensive 2015 master plan for the university.

George Dark, the partner-in-charge for the project, said the 2015 timeline coincides with the city’s light rail transit (LRT) system.

“The LRT goes operative in that time frame,” he said. “There are pieces of this plan, primarily land around these stations, which are being used to stage for the LRT, so they can’t become active parts of the plan until the LRT construction staging is over.”

According to Dark, Urban Strategies — which has consulted with Cornell University, the University of Toronto, and Waterloo University — is committed to gathering students’ opinions on the school’s expansion plan.

The firm held two workshops last week in the University Centre Agora. There were maps with post-it notes allowing students to give their comments. Urban Strategies also has a blog that students can go to and provide feedback.

“The university has gone from 12 to 15 thousand people to 45 thousand people in a very short period of time,” Dark said. “One of the things that’s interesting is for us to address how the university can begin to come into alignment with the size that it is today, and all the complexity that would come with that new space and different kinds of spaces.”

U of O president Allan Rock said space on campus is an issue and a “really important part of the quality of the student experience.” He called the new student lounge in Tabaret Hall a step in the right direction, but not nearly enough.

“There’s not enough space for students just to be — between classes, preparing for exams — and we’re looking at a number of ways to enlarge the student space,” he said.

Rock said a new learning centre is one of the ways the university will address the lack of space on campus. The proposal has been approved by the Board of Governors, and the building will be located behind Lamoureux Hall. It’s expected to be finished in about three years.

Rock said the university plans to build more in coming years. One of the proposed renovations includes tearing down the University Centre and building a new one.

“As we can afford it, as we get approvals for it, we will build as much student space as we can as quickly as we can,” said Rock.