This past spring, McGill purchased the Courtyard Marriott hotel, with plans to make it the university’s newest student residence.
The building is located at 410 Sherbrooke West, just east of campus. When it opens in the fall of 2011, it will house roughly 270 McGill students. The hotel was bought for a reported 12.3 million dollars, which McGill declined to verify. The purchase of the Marriott represents the third major residential real estate acquisition by McGill this decade, coming after the Renaissance Hotel (now New Residence) in 2003 and the Four Points Sheraton (now Carrefour Sherbrooke) in 2009.
“The main reason is so that we can make good on our guarantee of housing,” explained Morton Mendelson, Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning.
At McGill, housing is guaranteed to all incoming first-year students under the age of 22. Previous real estate acquisitions, including the aforementioned hotels, have also been made in order to secure available housing for incoming students. Shortage of space in residence has proven troublesome in the past, most notably in the fall of 2008, when a building’s worth of apartment space had to be rented for first-year students lacking housing.
This year, according to Residences Director Michael Porritt, temporary housing had to be found for approximately 100 students as of move-in day. As in years past, many freshmen (also estimated at nearly 100) had to settle off-campus due to overflow. The newly-acquired Marriott will, when it opens its doors next year, help to accommodate a large number of students for whom housing would not be otherwise available.
By all indications, however, the Marriott is not an all-encompassing solution to McGill’s housing woes. McGill’s undergraduate class has been growing at an annual rate of 1%, roughly 200 students a year, and is projected to continue at this pace for the next two years. With no major real estate purchases slated for the near future students may still be left looking for housing options.
McGill’s budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year states that, “It has become increasingly difficult to not only sustain McGill’s quality (and its approximate 29,000 students) while positioning the University to enhance its competitiveness in the future, but also to meet our obligation to reduce annual operating deficits and achieve a breakeven budget by [fiscal year] 2011.”
Mendelson explained the process behind the purchase.
“The university took out a bond to raise money. The bond was issued with the understanding that all the money raised by the bond would go into projects that created a financial return,” he said.
According to Porritt, the Residences department serves as a self-sustaining financial system, generating its own revenues each year. “Residences and the University do not purchase anything that we cannot pay for,” he said.
SSMU President Zach Newburgh reflected on the growth of the undergraduate class.
“The SSMU is glad that the university is opening its doors to more and more students, but recognizes that students will be faced with some of the negative consequences that will follow, such as increases in class sizes, fewer opportunities to engage with professors directly, longer wait times with advisors and other administrators, as well as a slew of others,” he said.
-with files from Michael Lee-Murphy