McGill added a third former hotel to its residences earlier this summer with the purchase of the Marriott Courtyard Montreal, which will be transformed into a residence in fall 2011 after a year of renovations.
The university had previously expanded its residence system by purchasing the Renaissance Hotel in 2003-now New Residence Hall-and the former Four Points Sheraton in 2009-now starting its second year as Carrefour Sherbrooke.
“This year, although we assumed that everyone who would want space would get the space [in residence], we really are operating above capacity,” said Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson. “We want to be able to meet our guarantee that our freshman students have places in residence.”
The building, located at 410 Sherbrooke West, across the street from Carrefour Sherbrooke, is currently under renovation. McGill plans to have it ready for next year’s incoming class.
“We bought it with the understanding that there was work needed on the building to improve its safety and to make it more suitable for our purposes,” Mendelson said. “That work has already started and will take place over the coming year.”
But safety issues are not the only thing on the agenda, according to Mike Porrit, executive director of Residences and Student Housing. The major structural project is the replacement of the building’s facade, however there are a number of other issues as well.
“The front and the back of the building will be replaced, McGill networks will be installed, there is some work in the garage and the basement, and there are different cosmetic things and co-compliance issues,” Porrit said.
While there is much to be done before the building starts functioning as a residence, it will almost certainly be complete by the time students move in, which was not true of Carrefour Sherbrooke last year.
“This time around, there has been a more careful assessment of the kind of work that has to be done,” Mendelson said. “We have a less optimistic-or a more realistic-appraisal of what has to be done and the amount of time we need to do it.”
In the case of Carrefour Sherbrooke, the university spent fewer than six months completing its renovation, and difficulties arose when it was discovered that more work needed to be done.
“The project grew but we were really constrained in time,” Mendelson said. “Carrefour Sherbrooke in terms of its renovations is complete from the point of view of areas that serve students and we expect that will be the case for the new residence in September.”
The residence-to-be, which will house roughly 270 students, has been designed mainly for freshmen. As part of a long-term agenda, though, McGill Residences plans to be able to accommodate exchange, visiting, graduate, and even upper-year students.
“[We want to] make this new building all first-year students because it is typically more preferred by them, but we do have a high need for graduate student spaces as well,” Porrit said.
According to Porrit, a study will be conducted this year with students regarding residences to find out what students of all years look for in housing. Based on this data, decisions will be made regarding the future purchase of additional buildings or the possible alteration of currently owned property.
“Residences want to encourage students in second and third year to stay in residence,” said Joshua Abaki, the Students’ Society’s vice-president university affairs. “Hopefully once they finish this they will be able to attract and keep more students in and give a residence position to everybody who applies.”