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McGill reveals its Master Plan for future campus renovations

With McGill’s infrastructure and buildings aging, both the Downtown and MacDonald Campuses are set to undergo extensive renovations. In pursuit of this, the Campus Planning and Development Office (CPDO) is in the process of developing an overarching guide to infrastructural development at the university for the next 20 years.

Yves Beauchamp, vice-principal (Administration and Finance), attested to the importance of the Master Plan.

“The Master Plan is a vision that will guide the development of McGill’s campuses in support of the University’s mission and priorities,” Beauchamp said. “It will be a living document that will set a common way forward for our decisions relating to space, infrastructure, landscape, and related matters.”

The CPDO began its plans for the infrastructural changes by forming working groups to discuss guiding principles for the Master Plan. According to a McGill Reporter article, CPDO also collected community input through a series of events from Jan. 16 to Feb. 6, including a mobile display presented at buildings around campus by members of the planning team, two community briefings, and an online survey. According to the display boards, the most common themes mentioned by community members were governance, green space, connectivity, heritage protection, sustainability, communal space, and learning space.

Director of Stakeholder Relations Dicki Chhoyang affirmed the CPDO’s desire for student input in an interview with The McGill Tribune.

“All the stakeholders’ opinions, but mainly the students, are important to us,” Chhoyang said. “We wanted to create a platform to hear [their opinions….] We see this as our responsibility to hear from the McGill community[about] how we can make this planning process better.”

According to Manager of Campus and Master Planning Anna Bendix, the updated Master Plan will include clearer sustainability goals based on the CPDO’s surveys and focus group findings. She hopes that sustainability will be elevated to a higher priority than usual.

“After money is spent covering structural needs, [sustainability] is often left out of the budget,” Bendix said.

At the downtown campus, the CPDO will focus on six projects over the next decade. The Powell building is projected to become a new research lab, while the Fiat Lux project will transform the McLennan-Redpath library into a dynamic workspace. Wilson Hall’s renovations will include the installation of new classrooms and research labs while maintaining its iconic architecture, and the Montreal Neurological Institute will receive new cutting-edge technology and equipment. Additionally, the Royal Victoria Hospital is currently undergoing feasibility studies to determine what use the building, acquired by McGill in 2018, could serve. Proposals include outfitting it with state-of-the-art laboratories or transforming it into affordable student housing, with the latter idea being presented to the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council on Jan. 24.

The relocation of internal resources poses a recurring challenge to construction projects on campus. When a building is shut down, the offices, furniture, supplies, and files must be moved out of the construction zone. The Schulich Library renovation, for example, will displace 20 staff members, 160,000 print volumes, and at least 675 seats. Bendix acknowledged that the Master Plan is no exception, and she sees relocating the contents of the six large buildings it targets as a sizeable logistical challenge.  

According to CPDO Executive Director Cameron Charlebois, the cultural designations of many of McGill’s buildings provide further obstacles.  

“Almost all of [McGill’s] buildings are classified [as] heritage sites,” Charlebois said. “All of our buildings are protected automatically, so, whatever we do, we have to justify the intervention in the building. We can’t transform many of our buildings, and, as you are seeing, many of them are unsuited for academic purposes.”

The CPDO will present the completed Master Plan to the Board of Governors for their approval this spring.

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