New student building going to referendum

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UW&rsquo;s administration alongside Feds and the GSA, have drafted plans for a new student building on campus. Currently, construction is planned for the SLC courtyard. However, student approval for the project is still necessary. A referendum has been planned for February 2016 asking students whether or not they would support the project.</p>

The expected cost of the project is $34 million, $24 million of which is expected to be covered by students. No fee will be added to student tuition until the end of the project. As currently determined, $18 will be added to the student tuition, with part-time students paying 30 per cent of that. 

“Space on campus is easily one of the top issues at this university. Social space, study space, even space to eat your lunch is all lacking considering the population of Waterloo,” Feds President Chris Lolas  wrote in a post published Dec. 10, 2015 to the Feds website. 

The university will be providing $10 million towards funding the project, which is less than half the expense. As Lolas explained in an email interview with Imprint, this is because “the university is fully contributing to other student projects in the very near future, such as a field house on North Campus and renovations to the Dana Porter Library. Also, the university is unable to receive grants from the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities for non-academic buildings (which can account for tens of millions of dollars).” As a result,  the school needs students to compensate for the remaining fee. 

Titled the “SLC/PAC Expansion,” this project will open construction between the two buildings, with links featured on all three levels of the SLC and PAC’s Red North. The expansion will also create a link from the SLC to the third floor of MC. 

There will be “[t]riple the amount of dining space, new large social spaces, approximately 14 bookable rooms of varying sizes, large bookable event space, multi-faith space, gender neutral washrooms on every floor, [a] three-storey rock climbing wall, two new athletic studios, [and] a new fitness centre three times the size of the existing one currently located in the [SLC] basement,” Lolas said. 

If students vote in favour of the project, Lolas estimates the construction period will last 16 months, beginning in Spring 2017 and ending in Fall 2018.

According to Lolas, the design of this building was based on already existing student building concepts, drawing from student surveys and focus groups they had conducted.

“We really want to create a sense of community with the SLC/PAC Expansion. A place where students — graduate or undergraduate — of all faculties can connect while enhancing student space on campus.

“It was important to us from the beginning that athletics and recreation be included in the project, as this is an integral part of student life on campus,” Lolas continued. “We recognized that the PAC needs to be more inviting to the students who pay for its membership, and [we]realized the importance of providing a balance between recreation and academics at university.”

With a growing student population, the need for more student space on campus increases. Currently, UW has less than half of what the Council of Ontario Universities recommend institutions should have in terms of student space.

“Students are asking for it. It is certainly one of the biggest issues students have on this campus,” Lolas said.

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