On January 17, representatives from the McGill Administration and Campus Planning and Development Office (CPDO) invited student press to learn about McGill’s new Master Plan. Interim Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Fabrice Labeau, Executive Director of the CPDO Cameron Charlebois, Director of Stakeholder Relations Dicki Chhoyang, and Interim Director of Communications James Martin answered questions about the upcoming changes to campus.
The “Master Plan” is a living document that sets the course for short, medium, and long term changes to campus. McGill’s master plan asserts common goals of campus living and addresses issues of transportation, landscaping, building, and space requirements. Charlebois explains that ìa master plan can be many different things. You lay out what needs you think youíre going to have in the future for buildings, classrooms, research labs, student communal spaces, and outdoor spacesî.
The Master Plan also puts forward strategies to address McGillís space issues. Some of McGill’s buildings are not ideal spaces for classrooms, and are often inaccessible. Charlebois explained that McGill is renting 36,000 square metres of property, mainly on Sherbrooke, to accommodate student and staff needs. He also mentioned how McGill does not receive government subsidies for rental space, citing the extreme cost as an integral reason why McGill needs creative spatial solutions.
“How do you dispose of the building assets that youíve got?” he asked, “what do you do with these [buildings] that are old and need to be refurbished? Some should be gotten rid of [so] new development can take place.”
Charlebois also touched on the Royal Victoria Hospital project, explaining that McGill purchased part of the hospital with plans to use the structure for extra classroom space. Estimations say the first classrooms will be ready around 2028. On the topic of campus expansion, Charlebois maintained that ì[McGill] won’t have more students and professors, “we will just have more space so we can move people into those buildings and move people from these rental buildings to campus. It’s going to be a lot cheaper.”
Members of the CPDO were also asked about how concerns of accessibility will factor into their renovation plans. “Any new construction has to be fully accessible,” Charlebois stated. He also elaborated on the struggle of updating existing buildings on campus. Most buildings, he says, have “severely constrained” renovation options because of their heritage status with various governments. according to Charlebois, “existing buildings, which are difficult for accessibility, are going to be worked on one at a time.” He drew attention to the efforts to improve accessibility at the Athletics Complex and at Redpath library.
The CPDO is also making the cultivation and creation of communal space a priority, emphasizing that this is one of the main areas where McGill lacks infrastructure. “We’ve heard through other consultations that communal space is very important. It’s very important for students who don’t live near campus but have classes all day long. Where do they go if there’s five [or] six hours in between classes? […] We want to hear what the spaces are that people like, [such as] places to socialize or eating areas,” said Dicki Chhoyang.
Additionally, the CPDO is stressing their desire for, and the general importance of, student input on the Master Plan. Even though most of these projects will not be brought to fruition for almost a decade, the CPDO wants to hear from current McGill students. Chhoyang explained that “[the CPDO] realizes that when we ask students for their input and their thoughts on the spaces that they like or don’t like, many will have graduated by the time the project materializes […] We are appealing to the students’ wish to contribute towards a legacy for future generations of students based on your experience. What do you want to say so that the space is better for the next generation of students?”
Chhoyang continued, “we want to create a platform for them to let us know if they have a favourite indoor/outdoor space for studying, learning, research, socializ[ing], and relax[ing]. What do they like about that space? If they have a least favourite space what is it, why, and how can we make it better?”
The CPDO has a short survey available online, and will be tabling across campus the week of January 28, with more information about the Master Plan.