Outreach centre finds home on Aberdeen

Community centre intended to foster better relations between students and residents

Renovations are underway at 11 Aberdeen Street, the site of the new community outreach centre.
Renovations are underway at 11 Aberdeen Street, the site of the new community outreach centre.

Beginning in September, Aberdeen Street will be home to a new student community centre.

The University recently bought the house from the Lee family—the street’s last non-student residents. Work began on the house last month and will be completed in September.

Associate Vice-Principal and Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said the project aims to foster an inclusive community experience. Laker said he began thinking about the project last summer, hoping to use one of the three Queen’s-owned houses on Aberdeen Street. “We wanted to use one of these houses, but we did not want force any students to move out,” he said.

Laker noted that he offered students help with the cost of moving and rent if they were willing to relocate.

Before his offer came to fruition, the Lee family approached the Office of Student Affairs about selling their home.

The project was initially motivated by tension between students and residents, Laker said, but the University’s lack of immediate involvement in student life outside of residence has become one of the driving forces behind the project.

“Coming to Queen’s, students encounter an intrusive and intense experience living in residence,” he said. “[The University] gets involved in students’ lives right away. Then after a year, students move off campus and suddenly it becomes Lord of the Flies. They are abandoned.

“If you begin a commitment with students, you must continue to ensure the support that they’ve been accustomed to while living in residence.”

Renovations are set to be completed and the house furnished by the end of the summer.

According to Laker, the Lee family cited old age and family matters as reasons for selling their home. Queen’s purchased the home for about $400,000, a price he said is typical for house of that size and location.

Laker said the family was pleased with the University’s plans.

“It was not a condition the family made [for selling,] but they found the idea charming.” The family is moving to a smaller condominium in another part of Kingston.

Programs planned for the new centre include reserve-based study rooms, an arts studio, a kid-friendly commuters’ lounge and a sustainability internship position for the Student Affairs office.

Laker said the programs are intended to facilitate more positive town-gown interactions and to give students the opportunity to better adjust to the off-campus lifestyle.

He said the centre will also be used to measure progress against student discernment of the misconstrued ‘ghetto neighbourhood’ label.

“I’m uncomfortable with the word ‘Ghetto.’ There’s a lack of consideration [by students] that many Kingstonians have lived on these streets for years. This is also where [the centre] hopes to measure progress—to deliver students from that sort of mentality.”

He added that the University is concerned with the well-being of students. “Not in a parental role, or buddy, or any other of the sort, but rather that every human should care about other humans. … The hope is that [the centre] will provide them with new support and encouragement. Students must know that they’re cared about.”

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