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BoG set to approve Master Plan today

The Board of Governors will approve a large portion of McGill’s physical Master Plan today, pledging the University to a broad set of goals as it develops its future landscape.

The document will commit planners to a set of nine principles, including mandates to expand mixed-use space, revamp current buildings, and construct new structures according to stringent green standards.

In an email to The Daily, Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) Jim Nicell stressed that this part of the Plan does not detail specific actions.

“The principles indicate the wish of the broader community about where we want to land at some point in the future,” he wrote.

According to the Plan’s introduction, administrators will now draft a demonstration plan, detailing specific developments on both campuses. Unlike the planning and design principles, the demonstration plan will not be made public.

Master Plan Coordinator Radu Juster said he expects the demonstration plan to be completed by the end of the year, with project outlines and analysis drafted free of financial considerations.

“That way, as [funding] opportunities arise, much of the analysis work will already be done,” said Juster.

A task force began working on the Master Plan in 2005, with input from McGill administrative and planning groups, outside consultants, and environmental representatives.

Student councillors and senators attended a consultation session on the document in October, but SSMU president Jake Itzkowitz was disappointed with the turnout.

“It wasn’t as well attended as we could have had it be,” he said. “It was a combination of apathy and poor publicity.”

The meeting was advertised just one day in advance in an email sent to councillors.

Nevertheless, the principles and their objectives do guide the University’s physical development toward impressive goals.

Pedestrians are given priority in the Plan’s principles for campus accessibility, with directives to improve the network of large, barrier-free pathways both indoors and out. Eventually, traffic on lower campus will be limited to service and emergency vehicles only.

Nicell said that objectives like a car-free campus are worth striving for, but need to be looked at with respect to other affected operations.

“We need to reflect on the fact that parking represents an important source of revenue that is currently devoted to enhancing our teaching and research programs,” he wrote. “Before we are in a position to move to a car-free campus, we need to ensure that we can meet the fundamental and ever-growing needs of our programs.”

Itzkowitz agreed, saying that a car-free campus would be a great step forward that needs to be more closely examined.

“[A car-free campus] is great in terms of sustainability and encouraging people to actually use the public transportation,” he said, adding, “There are some human resources impacts and some personal impacts that have not been evaluated very well yet.”

In addition to the emphasis on pedestrian paths, the University will implement more parking and amenities for cyclists – like accessible showers and locker rooms.

Another objective calls on the University to follow environmentally friendly building practices, and designs for improved energy and water efficiency, lower waste, and resource conservation.

While the Master Plan does include provisions for the eventual expansion of athletics facilities and the purchase of additional residences, Juster made it clear that development would not encroach on the mountain.

“There is no plan for any construction north of Pins,” he said.

The document also encourages planners to design buildings that integrate teaching, research, and administration.

According to Nicell, the University may have reconsidered the design of the Trottier and Life Sciences buildings with the Plan in place, because they are only used for teaching and research, respectively.

Nicell shared his hope that the entire document will help influence McGill’s development efforts for many years to come.

“It is very important for us to come to agreement as a community on the fundamental principles concerning the development of our campus,” he wrote.