University Avenue to get facelift

Things will look a little different on University Avenue thanks to some aesthetically concerned alumni.
Things will look a little different on University Avenue thanks to some aesthetically concerned alumni.

University Avenue is getting a $3 million makeover.

The Campus Grounds Advisory Committee and the Campus Planning and Development Committee are organizing the University Avenue Project, which aims to restore the street to its pre-Second World War grandeur.

The project will be funded primarily by anonymous alumni, Director of Campus Planning and Development Jean Ma told the Journal.

“There are two major donors [who] together contributed the money,” Ma said. “It’s dedicated to support this project.”

Ma said the fund was set up specifically for the renovation of University Avenue.

The plan is to renovate University Avenue from Clergy to Stuart streets.

According to the project’s website, University Avenue has suffered from increased pedestrian and vehicle use, and the landscape has not been maintained.

The website also states that recent buildings have not been designed to maintain the overall feeling of the campus.

“The fabric is barely held together by a few historic limestone buildings and well-established landscapes.”

Ma said the ground plan of the Campus should support the University’s values of quality and permanence.

“The whole campus is a learning resource,” Ma said. “It’s about a sense of place and image identity.”

The project identifies some key areas that could be improved including increased bench seating and better pedestrian flow via the creation of more cohesive walkways. The project highlights the need to develop the intersection of University Avenue and Union Street as a unit, instead of its current state as four distinct corners.

Another proposed change that will alter both aesthetics and function is the removal of the median that currently divides the road.

Goals of the project include creating “[more room for increased] gathering, and bicycle parking, and restrict[ing] the trespass of vehicles in pedestrian and planting areas.”

“We want to make the streetscape more accessible and more beautiful,” Ma told the Journal.

Last May, a group of consultants including architectural and engineering firms with expertise in heritage, engineering, urban forestry and lighting were approved by Campus Planning and Development to be part of the Project team that will consult, plan and design the renovations. Some of the firms selected are locally based, Ma said, including Mccormick Rankin Corporation, an engineering firm based in Kingston and Ottawa.

“We are also consulting with city staff so we have advice and approval at the appropriate stages of the project,” Ma said.

A public meeting was held last Wednesday in Ellis Hall to introduce the design team. “The important part is to hear the public’s ideas about important issues,” Ma said.

The next public meeting is scheduled for September 30th.

The website describes the Project Committee as a User Committee, including representatives from several interest groups.

“Unlike a building, a street is used by everybody,” Ma said. “On the project committee we requested representatives from student government and the AMS executive and assembly were invited to attend the public meeting.”

Ma did not confirm that there was a student representative currently sitting on the Project Committee.

“We have not confirmed representation from SGPS,” Ma said. “They have been requested to nominate someone.”

The Campus Planning and Development Committee, which is a Board of Trustees committee, will give the final approval for the design.

Ma said the Committee would welcome comments or suggestions sent by campus E-mail.

The project will be planned in two phases.

The first phase, which is already underway, is the conceptual planning phase. The second phase will consist of specific planning for construction.

“We hope to wrap up the planning phase by the end of the year,” Ma said. “If all goes well, we hope to break ground next summer.”

Although the University owns the property on either side of the street, University Avenue itself is property of the City of Kingston. Renovations will first have to be approved by the city. Preliminary meetings have already begun; an introduction to the project was presented to city council last week.

—With files from The Kingston Whig-Standard

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