University District to be recognized?

Commission takes new concept for off-campus living area to City

The proposal seeks to confirm boundaries for the District.
Image by: Supplied
The proposal seeks to confirm boundaries for the District.

The AMS Municipal Affairs Commission is attempting to make the University District official by having the name passed at City Council later this year.

The concept of the University District, which was created in 2011 following the failure to rename the Student Ghetto as the Student Village, was brought to discussion at City Hall on Wednesday, initiated by the City’s Near Campus Neighbourhood Advisory Committee.

The AMS has referred to the Student Ghetto area as the University District since 2011, although the area and name have yet to be officially recognized by the City. Input gathered from Wednesday’s meeting will be considered at the Dec. 4 City meeting, after which it will brought to City Council.

“We found that ‘Student Village’ didn’t catch on,” Catherine Wright, AMS municipal affairs commissioner, said. “We will straight up admit to that.”

The discussion followed a proposal to the City put forward by the Municipal Affairs Commission in September. The proposal called for the establishment of boundaries for the neighbourhood, and the implementation of street signs that say “University District”.

The report proposes that the University District boundaries lie between Princess St. to the north, King St. to the south, Collingwood St. to the west and Barrie St. to the east. The District will be split up into two different phases — phase one being south of Johnson and phase two north of Johnson St.

The overall aim, according to Wright, is to eliminate the politically incorrect use of the term “ghetto”, increase liveability and promote beautification of the area. If passed at Council later this year, the District will be officially recognized by the City.

“The term ‘ghetto’ is really negative and inappropriate … because of its historical nature and more importantly because of its practical implications,” she said, which lead landlords to neglect their property because of a “ghetto” perception of the area.

“There isn’t a lot of pressure for landlords to renovate their properties because students are willing to rent them how they are because we feel that it’s a ‘ghetto’ and we understand this is what the houses are like,” Wright said. “When we’re calling it a ‘ghetto’ they’re calling it a ‘ghetto’ … and it’s leaving them with a lot of power.”

Street signs will include the term “University District” atop of street names, in either blue or green colours. Inspiration for the street signs came from certain neighbourhoods in Toronto, Wright said, which reflect the individuality of each neighbourhood.

“We’re trying to identify the reality of that area, [that] the University is a huge landmark,” she said. “We wanted to stick with something that has the feel of the neighbourhood, like the Distillery District [in Toronto].” The majority of people present at the meeting, which included AMS staff, supported the initiative, referring to it as step forward to reducing a negative stigma surrounding the area.

Don Rogers, president of Save Our Neighbourhood Action Group (SONAG), attended the meeting, and voiced some concerns about how the name could bring an attitude of negative ownership in the student body.

“That is, [the attitude] that ‘we own the neighbourhood so we can do whatever we want,’” Rogers told the Journal. “I’ve heard students say that Aberdeen is ‘our street’ therefore ‘we can basically do what we want.’”

Despite this, he said he supports the overall proposal.

“Hopefully the naming of the University District it will help the objective the AMS is hoping for,” he said, “[A] sense of ownership, a sense of pride, a desire to make the neighbourhood a good place for all.”

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