Union Street project taking shape

Grad Club may lose patio, but building not at risk for demolition

If the design presented at the Union Street Project meeting yesterday night is any indication, the future of The Grad Club remains secure.

At the meeting, project director Jeanne Ma introduced the design team from Ottawa-based architects Corush, Sunderland, and Wright. Firm representative Steven Sunderland explained changes that have been made to the original designs, which came out last May, and how public concerns affected what is now known as Concept Three of the Union Street Project.

One of the main concerns of the public, particularly Queen’s students, was the possible destruction of The Grad Club, located at the intersection of Union and Barrie streets. One of the design concepts initially called for a gateway to be installed as a marked entrance to campus, or for the installation of a traffic circle to slow down the flow of traffic where The Grad Club currently stands.

Upon consultation with the university, the design team was informed that this gateway was unnecessary.

“Something that we discovered after speaking with staff and faculty is that the primary entrance to campus is at Sir John A. MacDonald Boulevard and Johnson Street, not, in fact, at Albert or Barrie. These are both entrances but not the primary entrances,” Sunderland said.

Several other recommendations from the University were the product of a fall safety audit, conducted in conjunction with the City of Kingston. Based on these suggestions, the initial design concepts for the project were revised.

Sunderland described Union Street as “one of the most important social streets on campus.

“The only recommendation we have not gone forward with is installing a 2.5-cm raised median from Albert to Barrie,” he said.

Numerous other recommendations have been included in the project, which now details extensive improvements for the Union Street landscape, including narrowing the street to 10 metres, installing bicycle lanes, constructing marker columns on street corners to indicate the location of campus to visitors, and creating a loading area in front of the Queen’s Centre for Tricolour buses and other vehicles.

Sunderland’s design also includes widening the sidewalk between Albert Street and Barrie Street from 1.5 m to 4 m.

“You know and I know [pedestrians] spend a lot of time jaywalking. That’s just the way it is,” Sunderland said. “We want to make sure you spend the least amount of time crossing.” Commenting on The Grad Club’s possible demolition, both the president of The Grad Club’s Board of Directors, Jamie Spotswood, Law ’06, and the manager of The Grad Club, Virginia Clark, ArtSci ’94, raised concerns about the bar’s patio, which will have to be moved in order to make room for a new wrought iron fence along the property line.

“Certain people were under the misconception that the wooden fence [currently in place] would be replaced with the wrought iron fence,” Clark said. “We don’t mind losing the hedge—we mind losing the patio.”

Ma said the patio was constructed two years ago on the condition that The Grad Club must accept any future developments the city made on the property. Clark and Spotswood both agreed that this was their understanding upon construction of the patio. “Currently the [proposed] sidewalk goes up to the property line, encroaching on the patio,” Ma said.

However, Spotswood acknowledged the planning process as positive and felt that extending the sidewalk would be beneficial to The Grad Club.

“I think it’s a testament to this open consultation process,” he said.

Numerous residents of Kingston were also in attendance at the meeting to express concerns relating to the elimination of the majority of parking spaces on Union Street, traffic flow, bicycle lanes and town-gown relations.

Describing the design as a whole, Kingston resident Paul Rappell likened the design to St. George Street at the University of Toronto, “It’s not the cars that are the problem. Pedestrians will cross from anywhere. It looks fantastic, but is still as hazardous as ever.” In response to concerns raised by residents and faculty, Ma stressed the project was still in the planning stage.

“This is a planning project that has no current funding,” she said. “The intent [with this meeting] was to make sure people were informed.”

The project currently has no donor, and a donor is not actively being sought.

“Fundraising is managed by the Office of Advancement. This is simply a planning project. It is not my role to deal with fundraising,” she said.

Clark said she left the meeting feeling positive about the results.

“I feel better that we’re not losing the building,” she said. “The patio is a major concern, but it’s the lesser of the two evils.”

Clark went on to say that The Grad Club has received strong community backing since the initial designs were released May 5, 2005 at a public meeting.

“We want to thank everybody for the tremendous support,” she said. “We think that’s part of the reason why we’re still here. We can only hope it will change a little more.” The designers will take the concerns raised by the public and the Campus Planning and Development Committee Board of Trustees into consideration and hope to release the final revision in May.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.