Queen’s Centre to break ground in June

Journal, Foodbank to relocate operations

Jenn Hirano, AMS VP (Operations), oversees the AMS services which will be moving into the Queen’s Centre as it is constructed.
Jenn Hirano, AMS VP (Operations), oversees the AMS services which will be moving into the Queen’s Centre as it is constructed.
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When students return to Kingston in September, they’ll be greeted by some mighty construction tools.

“Cranes. Lots and lots of cranes,” said AMS President Ethan Rabidoux.

But that’s about it, he added.

“It’s not going to be that impressive,” he said, referring to the deep dig the University has been busily preparing for over the past several years. “It’s going to be a wide open space; it won’t be anything to brag about—at least not next year.”

But eventually, that open space will be filled—and the much-heralded Queen’s Centre will begin to take shape.

As it stands, the project—a new $230 million student life facility—is set to break ground in June 2006, said Jenn Hirano, AMS VP (Operations). Phase I of the project is expected to be open by 2009.

Phase I will include a 2,000-seat basketball court, a swimming pool, a racquetball court, student club space, retail space and the Common Ground Coffeehouse, as well as large seating areas, Hirano added. It will be located between the JDUC and Earl Street.

The Queen’s Centre is to be built in three phases and completed by 2015. The facility will also house the soon-to-be-renamed School of Physical and Health Education, athletic facilities and the services and groups currently housed in the JDUC.

Rabidoux said the final approval of the funds to start building the Centre will occur at the May Board of Trustees meeting, at which they will have “passed the point of no return.”

George Hood, vice-principal (advancement), said that he sees the student contribution of $25.5 million to the Queen’s Centre as a parallel to the student contribution that students build to build Grant Hall.

“As a Queen’s grad, I’m enormously impressed by the commitment of the students,” he said.

Rabidoux said the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which was signed in December between the AMS and the University regarding the student contribution to the Queen’s Centre and outlined the specifics of student involvement in the project, is important in ensuring students’ stake in the project is respected.

“The bigger challenge … is just when we move into the Queen’s Centre, that we have what we want, we have what we paid for,” he said. “That’s what the MOU was for.”

Hood said that the commitment of money by students has helped the University raise alumni donations to the project.

“It’s an enormous help when you go and you talk to donors, when you go and say ‘the students have spoken,’” he said. “The fact that students have spoken in the manner that they have is an enormous help to us.”

Hood said that in addition to the $25.5 million contribution by students, his office is trying to raise $130 million through philanthropic means towards the Centre’s estimated $230 million price tag.

Hood said that he has heard from at least one donor who would like to see the PEC updated. The donor thought the PEC was “sketchy” 20 years ago when he attended the University, Hood said.

Hirano said two services will be displaced by the project. The Journal and the AMS Foodbank, which are both currently located at 272 Earl St., have found new homes. Over the summer, the Journal will relocate to a house at 190 University Ave. and the AMS Foodbank will be housed in Macgillivray-Brown Hall at 218 Barrie St., which currently houses Career Services. Macgillivray-Brown Hall will also be used as temporary space for AMS groups as they are displaced by the building of the Queen’s Centre.

Hirano added that it was important to ensure the Food Bank is discreet and accessible, and that the Journal doesn’t have to move again before its space in the Queen’s Centre opens in Phase III, which could be as late as 2015.

Rabidoux said there will be some challenges for AMS services transitioning from their current spaces into their new homes in the Queen’s Centre.

“For five years we’re not going to have Alfie’s,” he said, noting that Alfie’s must close in the JDUC during Phase II of the project, but won’t reopen in the Queen’s Centre until Phase III. The AMS is still grappling with that problem, he said.

Hirano added the Queen’s Centre will be built in several two story sections connected by major north-south and east-west corridors featuring skylights and multiple seating areas.

“There will be lots of areas for people to plop down and have a meeting,” she said.

Rabidoux said he is hoping that students will see the benefits of the project in the long run, although many current students will not be around to use the Queen’s Centre.

“Right now, it’s all pain, no gain,” he said. “We’re paying the money and we’re going to have to live through a ton of construction and noise, but it will be definitely be worth it when it’s over.”

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