Queen’s Centre steals the spotlight

Economic downturn, slowed donations fail to get other ‘shovel-ready’ projects off the ground

The former Prison for Women (above) and the Tett Centre are two buildings purchased by the University that won’t be ready to develop until adequate funding is availble.
Image by: Tyler Ball
The former Prison for Women (above) and the Tett Centre are two buildings purchased by the University that won’t be ready to develop until adequate funding is availble.

All other campus construction projects have been put on hold because the Queen’s Centre is taking up so much of the University’s budget and attention, Principal Tom Williams said.

He said the economic downturn has slowed donations from benefactors, making the future of all projects dependent on government funding.

Williams said the University has several projects that are ‘shovel-ready’—meaning they can be started as soon as the funds can be found. These include a new medical building located beside Abramsky Hall, the new performing arts facility at the Tett Centre, an expansion of Goodes Hall and a possible renovation of Richardson Stadium.

“I think that there’s a good chance that we’ll get infrastructure funding for some of these buildings,” Williams said. “I fully expect that all universities will get a big chunk of money for repairs, renovations and alterations.”

Proposed renovations to the JDUC are still in the University’s plans, but will take place only if funding allows.

Williams said he wants construction to begin as soon as possible to take advantage of warmer weather.

“If we get infrastructure money we would expect that we could start on any of those projects by the fall of this year and be substantially complete by 2012.”

Williams said all the projects will be produced to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specifications, with the possible exception of the existing parts of the 150-year-old Tett Centre facility.

“I basically think it’s the responsible thing to do and also the economical thing to do,” he said.

The University also purchased the former Prison for Women in 2007, but Williams said that land is unlikely to be used in the next few years.

“We’ve got that as land that we’re banking. There are no plans to use that in the immediate future.”

The Prison for Women is a historically protected building, which will affect any future construction on the building. The University has to no plans to sell the Prison for Women property.

Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne said although the provincial budget was released last week, she doesn’t know when or how much funding Queen’s will get. The province has pledged $780 million to support campus renewal and new buildings. Browne said because the government insisted on discretion, she couldn’t say exactly how much money the University asked for.

“We haven’t heard as of right now. … Until we receive money, we won’t be spending any money,” she said, adding that the money won’t affect the operating budget because it’s not allowed to be used for operating costs.

“We’ll have to look at what we get for each one,” she said. “They could be very specific on capital projects.

“When you submit, you in fact tell them what you’d do with the money, but we don’t know how they’ll respond,” she said, adding that specific plans for each project were submitted along with the request for provincial funding.

Browne said a new medical building is the University’s main concern.

“I would say that the medical school is top priority for us. … They need a presence on campus that they currently don’t have,” she said, adding that the Queen’s School of Medicine could increase enrolment with a new facility.

Browne said the provincial grant can’t be used for the Queen’s Centre.

“Usually, they exclude things such as student union buildings and anything to do with athletics,” she said.

Browne said the money could be used for the Queen’s Centre’s steam lines, which provide heating to the building, because steam lines connect to the University’s central steam plant.

Although all new buildings will be constructed to LEED standards, it’s difficult to retrofit existing facilities to the same criteria.

She cited the Prison for Women, which is historically protected, as a building that’s unlikely to attain LEED standards when it’s eventually remodeled.

There are plans to use salvaged materials in subsequent construction projects if possible, Browne said.

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