News  Expansion of student-run café faces financial hurdles

Student feedback key to defining the future space

The start of the 2014 Winter semester in January will mark the opening of the new Student-Run Café (SRC), which will be located on the second floor of the Shatner building. The potential development of the second floor as a student space depends on the success of the SRC, as well as the ability of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the student body to define their vision for the space.

On November 21, SRC manager Josh Redel and head chef Kathleen Bradley hosted an open discussion meant for “[students] to talk about quite literally everything that makes up this student-run cafe.” However, there was one thing missing: students. Redel talked to The Daily instead about the SRC’s plans for student input.

“I think feedback loops are the most important thing [about student space],” said Redel. “A lot of space at McGill is designed and built once – they do have a lot of interesting mechanisms to talk with students and faculty about what it will be, but then it’s built and done. It is really important for [the space] to be able to constantly transform to meet each year’s new needs.”

There will be a second open discussion event on November 26, where Redel hopes the SRC’s plans for developing the café past a counter into a student space will be discussed. At this event, the SRC Mission and Vision Statement will be open to student development.

There are many steps involved in turning the café into a larger student space. As outlined in a recent report from the SSMU Operations Management Committee, SSMU VP Finance and Operations Tyler Hofmeister maintained that the SRC is not at a stage where it can expand immediately.

The report stated that rushed expansion would be risky for several factors: for one, the SRC is not comparable to other second floor vendors in terms of revenue forecast. There is also low traffic on the second floor. According to the report, the SRC’s success cannot be reliably determined in the three months it would be operational before other second floor tenants have the chance to renew their leases.

In an email to The Daily, Hofmeister elaborated, “It is too early to predict the costs associated with a much larger project because SSMU has not defined what that larger project will look like.”

The report also stated that the SRC would have to open a large-scale McGill Facilities project in order to make changes to the second floor space. In an email to The Daily, the SSMU General Manager Pauline Gervais elaborated on what opening this process would entail.

“McGill will ask us to open a ‘project’ with Facilities […] A project manager is assigned […] and [will] communicate with me to get an overview or the scope of work to be done. The project manager will contact an engineer and an architect to get drawing plans when ventilation, air conditioning, heating, [and] lighting are involved with the project. McGill Facilities will also provide a budget to be approved by us before moving on.”

A Facilities project is also a cost in itself, according to Hofmeister. In an email to The Daily, Hofmeister added, “McGill Facilities charges SSMU an 8 per cent administration fee on all McGill facilities projects, which increases the cost of many building improvements substantially.”

The SRC will address the expansion process, according to Redel. “We do intend to expand [… in] the phase next semester, we’re going to start really big conversations about the space and what it should look like, hopefully with more attended sessions, doing high-level conceptualization down to floor plans, and then we’ll pass that along to McGill and open a project.”