The meeting was held at 5:00 p.m. in Room 330, Stevenson-Lawson Building.
PRESENT: Mr. W.W. Peel, Chair, Ms. J.K. Van Fleet, Secretary, Mr. R. Bateman, Mr. S. Castiglione, Dr. R. Colcleugh, Dr. J.V. Collins, Dr. P. Davenport, Ms. S. Desmond, Mr. J. Etherington, Mr. W. Gibson, Mayor D. Haskett, Prof. M. Lennon, Dr. P.P. Mercer, Dr. G. Moran, Mr. T. O'Neil, Prof. J. Starkey, Dean J.L. Stokes, Mr. T. Vine, Dr. A. Weedon, Ms. C. Weldon
BY INVITATION: S. Grindrod, R. Harris, D. Riddell, O. Zamprogna
REPORT OF THE PROPERTY AND FINANCE COMMITTEE
BG.97-263 SITING OF THE NEW RESIDENCE
The following motion was moved by R. Colcleugh and seconded by W. Gibson at the November 27, 1997, meeting of the Board of Governors:
That the Board of Governors approve:
a) the use of the north side of University Drive as the site for the construction of a 380 to 450 bed new residence;
b) that the detailed design of the residence proceed, subject to approval in January 1998 of the exterior design and that the maximum project budget be less than $20 million.
Consideration and voting on the motion was postponed to this special meeting of the Board in order that area residents have the opportunity to present their objections to the proposed siting at the December 8 meeting of the Campus & Community Affairs Committee (CCAC). The report of the CCAC covering the open meeting is contained in Appendix II distributed at the meeting.
Dr. Mercer stated that through the presentations made by the community at the open meeting of CCAC, it has been made clear to the University that the neighbors immediately adjacent to the proposed residence site feel misled. He stated that it is regrettable: this is not an easy issue and it is hoped that Western's friends and neighbors can accept that. The Campus Master Plan cannot be a fetter on the capital planning process or on development. It can and does establish principles and, as an indicator of the role that it must play, one can only look at what has already transpired on campus. For example, recently the Board made a decision about building a new stadium. The J.W. Little Stadium was built in 1929 on the edge of the campus; that site is now central to the campus. At the time the Master Plan was written, it was not known -- and could not be known -- that the prospect would open up for building a new stadium on the fringe of the Huron Flats flood plain. The Campus Master Plan shows a welcome centre on the north side of University Drive; its purpose is now superseded by the donation by the Bank of Montreal of the branch office building at the end of Tower Lane. Dr. Mercer read the following portion of the resolution placed before the Board on January 26, 1995, regarding the Campus Master Plan:
The Campus Master Plan has three key elements: planning principles, recommendations to support the planning principles and implementation. The plan does not commit the University to a particular line of development and in no way does it supersede the normal capital planning process of the University and the authority of the Senate and Board to make those decisions.
Dr. Mercer referred to a letter from Mr. Joe Berridge who was the consulting architect at the time the Master Plan was developed. Mr. Berridge spoke to a number of other issues arising out of the Master Plan, particularly the functionality and the aesthetic suitability of the University Drive site for a residence. Dr. Mercer read from his letter of December 5, 1997:
There are a limited number of possible locations, of which this is an extremely attractive one with the dimensions in area to contain a building or buildings that would provide a good residential experience for students. I also am in favor of development here for urban design reasons. The approach to the University through the gates, over the bridge and up the hill to University College is a very significant visual sequence. I believe that well designed buildings along the north side of University Drive will enhance this sense of arrival. Such buildings would be paired, architecturally, with those existing on the south side.
Dr. Mercer observed that the real difficulty is that Western's neighbors do not want a residence built on the University Drive site. The Board of Governors must be considerate of the neighbors' interests, but ultimately the paramount concern must be the best interests of The University of Western Ontario. He addressed issues raised by those opposing the University Drive site.
The compressed schedule surrounding this project was created by a series of events that began last Spring. Dr. Mercer reviewed the chronology of events leading to the proposed siting of a new residence; these are detailed in Appendix II. It is the opinion of those associated with the planning process that consultation extended over a significant period of time and involved review and comment on the design, landscaping of the property, siting, and how to best accommodate the residence to the neighborhood.
When the Essex Hall residence was due to open for the 1997-98 academic year, it provided over 500 beds with no guarantee that those beds would be filled. However, in the competitive environment of university enrolment, it was determined that Western should offer a place in residence to every first year student who decided to attend Western from outside the London area. Western was successful and at one point there were over 800 students expecting a place in residence that did not exist. Through a process of natural attrition, the number was reduced to 530 students, but during August the Housing staff had a horrific time securing places for those students at other locations, including a residence facility located in downtown London. The clear message received, repeatedly, was that parents and students were let down because the students were not assigned a place in an on-campus residence.
It is critical that the University move quickly to open the residence in September 1999. Western is now achieving the profile that the Board believes is important to its future because the academic average of the entering class moved up. Next year a number of residence spots that are normally allocated to upper year students will be filled by first year students because that is the only way the University can commit to assigning a residence space to every first year student. At this stage, the project is two to three months behind the timeframe followed with respect to Essex Hall.
Nine sites were examined, but the north University Drive site was the only one that met all the objectives.
There are many dimensions to any decision about where to situate a building. Parking is important to faculty, staff and students. Other sites would require both replacement of the parking space lost to the residence site and parking for those who live in the residence.
Dr. Mercer concluded by assuring the Board that the University will continue to consult with the community and asked the community accept that the University is acting in good faith in making its recommendation.
Dr. Colcleugh spoke to the concern about the selection of the architect. The process followed the standard procedure set out in Policy 2.15 - Approval Authorities for Construction and Maintenance Projects. The selection of architects is made through a process of competition and selection by a committee.
Dr. Davenport stated that Western has made concerted efforts over the last three years to respond to community concerns with regard to students in neighborhoods around the University. During the Strategic Planning exercise, and particularly in January 1995, the Task Force heard concerns from many community members about the lodging of students in privately rented houses that were owned by absentee landlords. The concerns centred on the condition of those houses and the behaviour of some of the students who reside in them. In response, Western developed the Housing Mediation Service, shortened Orientation Week and gave it a more academic focus, and worked with the University Students' Council and their system of "street captains" to respond better to particular incidents of student behaviour. Moreover, before, during, and after the Strategic Plan hearings, Western was repeatedly told that part of the solution to this problem was to build new residences on campus. Again the University responded. Western opened a new residence in September 1997 and is now entertaining a proposal to open a new residence in the Fall of 1999. Dr. Davenport stated that while he sympathized with the concerns expressed by the Broughdale Community Association, he regretted, profoundly, the rhetoric heard at the open meeting of December 8th with regard to "declarations of war". He believed that extreme language to be false. Western has been working very hard over the last several years to meet community concerns by supporting responsible behaviour of Western's students off campus and by housing more students on campus.
Dr. Davenport advised that the opening of a new residence in September 1999 is critical to Western's overall student recruitment effort. For the first time, this year Western guaranteed a residence space to all first year students and the response was overwhelming. Next fall, in order to honor that same guarantee, Western expects to have relatively few upper year students in the residences, but that situation should not continue beyond that time. In order to honor of Western's promise to provide a fair chance at residence life to both incoming students and upper class students, a new residence must be opened in September 1999. Dr. Davenport stressed that Board members have listened carefully to the concerns expressed to Western by the neighbors and while those concerns should be factored into the Board's overall judgment, the Board has a responsibility to act on this issue according to the best assessment of the long term needs of Western and its students. If the Board approves the University Drive site, a meeting will be sought with members of the Broughdale Community Association for review and comment on the proposed design of the building before it is submitted for approval at the Board meeting of January 29, 1998.
Mr. O'Neil said the Board must consider the public's perception of this issue and how best to address the situation. There are perceptions that Western may or may not be an honorable partner, that the Master Plan has suddenly become a document without commitment, and that consultation was not complete, timely or University-initiated. Some may think that Western is dealing with a small but vocal group who may soon go away. Mr. O'Neil suggested that one way to address the public's concerns is to consider building the residence on the Springett Lot site rather than the University Drive site. It has been suggested that the Springett site is dark, distant, and isolated. However, if a residence is built on that site, 400 more people would be living within close proximity to Huron and Brescia Colleges. Safety is a consideration because the City may change Western Road to six lanes of traffic. In his view, the University and the City could negotiate this point because Western Road is not designed to be a ring road. He contended that the Ursuline Sisters could be approached for space for extra parking, and that negates the argument about eliminating parking. By his calculations, the Springett Lot site presents cost savings of approximately $1 million in architectural and engineering fees and cladding costs. He expressed concern about comments about the possibility of interventions being raised with regard to site approval, given that the residence must be built within the specific time lines. In his opinion, the Springett site meets all the objectives, not only from the point of view of the financing, but from the location and timing involved. He believed that building the residence on the Springett site would avoid legal interventions.
Dr. Mercer stated that the Board and the administration believes the project is in full compliance with all the associated legal requirements.
Mr. Riddell advised that since the CCAC meeting of December, costing was done with respect to the use of Ariscraft Renaissance stone versus the stone used on Essex Hall. The cost difference for the stone and roofing is about $200,000. The architectural fees are 5% of the value of the project and traditionally the split on architectural fees is 75% for design up to the tender stage and 25% for administration. A $1 million savings would not be achieved by locating the residence on the Springett site.
Mayor Haskett supported the suggestion that the Springett Lot be used for the new residence site, for the reasons articulated by Mr. O'Neil and because the site is close to the heart of the campus. The residence could be built similar to Essex Hall which would provide savings. She believed that it is very important for the University maintain its good relationship with its neighbors.
Mr. Bateman also spoke in support of the Springett Lot site. Asked if the site is a realistic option, Mr. Riddell said it is possible to build a residence on the Springett Lot site, however, the statement of saving all the architectural fees is not correct in that there are requirements to change the design to a certain extent and also to inspect the work as it progresses. Asked when work on the new residence could begin, Mr. Riddell replied that the project needs at least 16 months to ensure that the residence will be ready for occupancy in September 1999.
Dr. Mercer stated that use of the Springett site would require relocation of the existing parking which would result in project delays, extra costs and loss of revenue. The Springett site does not provide any of the advantages achieved by the placement of the residence on University Drive. It would not enable the efficient management of residence life and does not provide the non-financial economies of scale. Placing the residence across Western Road in isolation raises a host of other considerations. Dr. Mercer agreed that the residence could be built elsewhere, but the issue is what is in the best interest of the University. Neither the Springett site nor the Visual Arts Parking Lot Site was considered to be in the best interest of the University in the process which lead to the recommendation.
The Board Chair stated that there have been extensive discussions on the alternative sites, and it has been pointed out that building the residence on the Springett Lot site would require a delay of one year.
Ms. Weldon spoke in support of the motion to build the new residence on University Drive. In examining the issue from a governing point of view, she believed that the Board had performed its due diligence, and has completed the process.
Dr. Collins asked in what way the University justifies this choice of site as contributing to the academic priorities of Western. Dr. Davenport replied that the University Drive site will allow Western to open the building in September 1999. This opening date is not achievable with the other sites. That is an academic priority because guaranteed residence space is integral to the recruitment of outstanding students. Plans for the building include a welcoming centre, the administrative offices of the Housing Department, summer counselling services and the Housing Mediation Service.
The question was called and CARRIED.
The meeting adjourned at 6:15 p.m.
W.W. Peel, Chair
J.K. Van Fleet, Secretary