Bye bye Bay Street

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By Melissa Godsoe

Ryerson’s hopes for a Bay Street business building were dashed yesterday when the university broke off negotiations with the owners of 777 Bay St.

According to Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse, the proposed site was beyond Ryerson’s financial means.

“The cost estimate which has just been received is greatly above the budget available for this project,” he said in a prepared statement, “and as a consequence, we are no longer pursuing this option at this time.”

The Board of Governors authorized a $60 million budget for the purchase of a new building last August. An extra $5 million was set aside to renovate the present building on Victoria Street, which will house the faculty of arts once the business students move out.

Ryerson received $12.5 million in SuperBuild funding last year. The university has asked for $40 million.

According to Lajeunesse, the university planned to raise $25 million in private donations and the rest of the money was to come from financing and mortgages.

The university will now be exploring other options for an edifice that would unite all four business schools under one roof.

Alan Kaplan, a business professor, said Ryerson may have to reassess the level of funding devoted to the project.

“I am guessing that the price tag was way out of whack,” he said.

RyeSAC President Ken Marciniec said he hopes the new Liberal government will address the chronic underfunding of infrastructure that forces universities to enter into partnerships with the private sector.

“If government is not going to make funds available for construction it’s unreasonable to expect universities to go into debt,” he said.

Marciniec is pleased that the business school will not be segregated from the rest of campus. He worried that moving business students so far from campus would have a detrimental impact.

“It’s already difficult to foster a sense of student life and events on campus,” he said, noting Ryerson’s reputation as a commuter school. “To move a good chunk of the student body off-campus would not do anything to improve that.”

Commerce Society President Dave MacLean was disappointed to learn of the collapse of negotiations for the building on Bay Street. He is concerned the university will have difficulty finding a new building in time to meet the scheduled move in 2005.

“Business students are getting pushed aside again,” he said. “It seems like we’re not ever going to get a new building.”

The faculty of business has been struggling to get out of its Victoria Street building ever since moving in.

In 1967, the business school set up shop in the former O’Keefe Brewery building. The arrangement was only supposed to last five years.

Lee Maguire, a former associate dean of business, suggested the university build twin buildings on Bond Street. And Gordon Cressy, former vice president of university advancement, took a look at the possibility of moving business students into Maple Leaf Gardens.

Ryerson’s initial SuperBuild plan sought to replace the parking garage on Victoria Street with a new business building.

Lajeunesse says Ryerson will begin to explore alternative sites for the business building.

“We remain committed to a new site for our faculty of business and will continue to explore existing options as well as additional alternatives.”

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