On Oct.12, at the University Students’ Council meeting, representatives from Strata Development were invited to discuss possible renovations to the Memorial Union Building and Place Riel Student Centre, which were then voted on and approved.
Due to its proximity to the university transit terminal, Place Riel has inadvertently become a transit stop for students, but with the upgrades, it will also become a space for collaborative work. The MUB renovations will focus on revitalizing the building and both stairwells. The projects will likely take place in the late fall or winter of 2017.
Aidan Murphy, a fourth-year political studies student and member of Students’ Council representing the College of Arts and Science, discusses the benefits that upgrading Place Riel could have for student life.
“I know for myself, there’s limited space right now where we can have a community atmosphere while we’re studying [and] while we’re working. I think that there’s a lot of wasted space right now in Upper Place Riel,” Murphy said.
Both the MUB and Place Riel are University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union buildings, which are maintained and paid for by the infrastructure fund collected from student fees. Strata has presented a renovation plan that focuses on creating an atmosphere for collaborative work or studying for students.
The renovation project will replace the furniture in Upper Place Riel with more comfortable seating and tall work tables. As for the MUB, the proposed renovations mainly target the back stairwell, which currently does not meet safety requirements, and the fireplace in Louis’ Loft.
Strata, which has worked with the university in the past, showcased their floorplans to the USC and discussed the budget and efficiency of the project, while also mentioning the sustainable aspects of the renovation. Murphy explains that he will actively try to get students involved in these projects with design choices and consultation.
“I want this to be as open to students’ ideas as possible. I definitely think this is beneficial, this is important, [and] this is sustainable for students and for everyone in the campus community,” Murphy said.
During the USC meeting, student councillors raised concerns about the chosen time frame for renovations, as students, staff and faculty need access to these buildings. Caroline Cottrell, general manager of the USSU, assured council that Stata will be replacing the flooring on the main level of the MUB during the academic breaks or in stages so as not to displace any students.
“The schedule intent at this point is to try and make sure that the MUB doesn’t close while we have people around who need to be in it. The linchpin of the project is the floor, and we have asked if they can do the floor over the Christmas break, and they have said ‘Yes.’ Once that floor is done, then the rest of the pieces can be staged. We will do this project with as little disruption to students [as possible],” Cottrell said.
Another concern discussed by the USC was whether or not the upgrades will be feasible within the infrastructure fund’s budget. Murphy believes that the USSU should go through with the projects and that the budget will cover the costs.
“We have our infrastructure fund, and then we have our regular budget, and within the terms of the infrastructure fund, … from my understanding [from] people who are on the budget and finance committee, this is absolutely within the budget,” Murphy said.
The grand total of the preliminary budget for the renovations and upgrades is projected to be $457,280. Cottrell explains that the preliminary renovation budget has a line for any contingencies and that there is room in the infrastructure fund for this project.
“Financially, this is elementally affordable, and [the budget] still maintains a very healthy and significant reserve against the future.”
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor