From Oct. 11 to 13, McGill University’s Planning and Development Office (PDO) hosted an interactive open house for members of the McGill community to learn about future planning initiatives meant to improve both the downtown and Macdonald campuses.
McGill’s downtown campus sits on 80 acres at the foot of Montreal’s Mount Royal park. For PDO Executive Director Cameron Charlebois, it is important that the university acquires and modernizes additional spaces from around campus so that it can continue to function as a first-class institution.
“We think we need closer to 600,000 to 700,000 gross square meters of extra space, which the Master Plan seeks to address,” Charlebois said. “[In the meantime we will address the lack of space by improving] the Powell site, a major development project at the corner of Dr. Penfield and Peel, […] Fiat Lux, which is a total repurposing of the library complex, [and] Wilson Hall at the entrance of the Milton Gates, which is going to be repurposed and rebuilt as a larger building.”
McGill began the process of acquiring additional buildings last summer. In August, the University purchased and became the sole owner of 680 Sherbrooke while the development of the Donald E. Armstrong building on McTavish Street is slated to be completed this coming winter.
The PDO is studying the now defunct Royal Victoria Hospital as another way to decrease McGill’s space deficit. The plan that the office is currently deliberating calls for the incorporation of a convocation center—which McGill currently lacks—as well as research labs and student spaces. In discussing the plan, Charlebois questioned whether or not the project’s benefits would justify its costs.
“The whole idea of the studies ongoing right now are to determine whether or not McGill will buy the Royal Vic,” Charlebois said. “It’s not the kind of building or property that we would [just] take over […] it has to be risk-free for McGill.”
Discussion on the Urban Design Master Plan
According to Senior Campus Planner Marilyne Tremblay, the PDO also has plans in motion for Macdonald Campus and its large area of green space.
“We’re still in the preliminary phases of the Macdonald Plan,” Tremblay said. “We started working on a needs assessment this year [to understand] the variety of potential land uses that we don’t have here downtown. The scale is much larger.”
Despite the long time frame for many of these projects, students and community members have been able to enjoy the fruits of some completed efforts. 2019 MScEng candidate Meghan Doucette noted that one example of success is the recently opened Mac Paddle Shack, which lends out equipment for kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing.
“The Paddle Shack has been open since July of 2017 and since that time, there have been 900 rentals of stand-up paddleboards and kayaks,” Doucette said. “People are really embracing this space, especially students”.