Queen’s buys former prison

Women’s penitentiary could provide new home for University archives

Queen’s is buying the former prison for women, above. It may house the Queen’s Archives.
Queen’s is buying the former prison for women, above. It may house the Queen’s Archives.
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The Federal Prison for Women on Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard will soon belong to Queen’s.

The University has reached an agreement with Canada Lands Company and anticipates the eight-acre property will be transferred over by January.

Construction on the site will begin in October and is set to last three months. Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance) said the purchase was a step towards future growth for the University.

“It’s not just about the short term, but it’s heading the long term,” Simpson said.

The site is also home to two heritage buildings—the prison’s administration building and the cell block.

Simpson said the University will preserve the integrity of the property in the same way it cares for all of its historic buildings.

“It’s something that we spend a great deal of time considering,” he said.

“You only have to walk into Gordon Hall or the School of Business to see that we spend a lot of time focusing on that, so I have no worries about our ability to do a good job.”

Simpson said the cost associated in developing the buildings might present a challenge.

Simpson said the University has yet to determine how they’ll use the new property.

“There are no final plans … but we have been in discussion with Queen’s Archives and they are very interested in the potential to establish a Queen’s Archives in the administration building [at the prison], and … so we will be pursuing that as potential first occupant of the new facility.” He said Queen’s will be looking to free up space in the heart of campus.

“We’re looking at those activities that don’t necessarily have to be at the heart of the Queen’s Campus,” Simpson said.

“And of course then … freeing up some space that may be put to better use at the centre of campus.”

The prison site will allow Queen’s to expand in the future in response to a growing demand for space.

“And assuming that Queen’s will continue to prosper and grow and flourish as a university, which we’re hoping it will in the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years … you need to have some plan for that and some coherency to it,” he said.

Norm Jarus, Ontario general manager of real estate for the Canada Lands Company, said Queen’s seemed a natural choice to buy the property.

“There’s a number of factors that came into account. The current uses of the site are institutional and, in general, Queen’s uses are institutional too,” Jarus said.

—With files from Kerri MacDonald

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