The long-awaited renovations of the McEown Park residences have finally begun.
The renovations will fall under the umbrella of the campus-wide RenewUS project, which aims to update and maintain existing campus infrastructure according to the current needs of the university community.
Martin Gonzalez, the acting director of the University of Saskatchewan’s Consumer Services, says that improving the student experience is a guiding principle in these renovations.
“As you come in, it’s an apartment. There’s no reception; you walk in, there’s the elevator and you go up to a room,” Gonzalez said. “There’s no sense of community in those buildings.”
In order to foster a greater sense of community, either more lounge space will be added or the current lounge space will be made more accessible. One idea is to move the common area to the middle of the buildings from their current place on the top floor.
Improving the ground floors of the McEown Park residences is also a concern.
“Right now, there are [just] storage rooms and maintenance rooms,” Gonzalez said. “I think we could turn those into common spaces or maybe retail spaces.”
Consumer Services surveyed students to determine their concerns regarding the residences.
“We would like to hear the voices of the students in terms of confirming that the priorities we’re proceeding with are consistent with what they want,” Gonzalez said.
Though the McEown Park residences include some family accommodations, Gonzalez said that the primary demographic being addressed in the renovations are the students themselves. Gonzalez added that student-family housing remains a priority for Consumer Services.
Some renovations are already underway. Workers are currently in the process of replacing the carpet floors with tile.
The plans include more natural lighting and bed-bug resistant furniture.
An engineering study of the McEown Park buildings was recently completed in order to prioritize the improvements and changes that will be made to the buildings’ structural, electrical and mechanical features. This study has allowed Consumer Services to better understand which projects fit within their means.
Work to resolve the issues identified by this study is underway in order to bring the buildings up to the current building code.
The renovations are being designed as a 20 year project. However, the areas determined to be of the most importance will be addressed over the next five years.
Consumer Services is currently working with university administration to determine the full scope of the McEown Park renovations.
Gonzalez says that no final budget for the project has been set and that the final scale of the renovations will be subject to the funding that is available. Given the current nature of the university’s finances, renovations that are of high-priority will be undertaken first but are largely subject to the funding limits.
Photo: Jordan Dumba