By Amit Shilton
Ryerson’s Master Plan received a $52 million boost from the provincial government last week.
Some of the money will help fund the construction of a new student centre and library extension on the recently- acquired former sites of Sam the Record Man and Future Shop. The building, with an expected total cost of around $100 million including the purchase of the property, will finally give the school a desired face on Yonge Street.
“I love the notion of a university that can front on Yonge Street,” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said. “I find it really hard to tell where this university ends and the city begins when I’m walking around outside. I think that’s really cool.”
Ryerson President Sheldon Levy says work has already begun on the project and that the university is in its pre-planning phase.
Early issues raised include the basement’s nine metre proximity to the TTC subway line and the fact that the former Future Shop site touches its neighbouring building.
But Levy still expects to break ground within 14 to 16 months. “If this was a vacant property in a suburban campus then you could be much more predictable as to how long things will take,” Levy said.
The school has yet to reach an agreement with an architecture firm for the new building. It will take about a year to develop architectural drawings, Levy said, noting that the renderings of the proposed building by Master Plan brainchild Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) are only a suggestion.
Levy’s true inspiration for the new student centre can be found on the desktop of his office computer, where a photo of the Seattle Central Library graces the screen.
The 11-floor glass and steel centre opened to rave reviews in 2004, garnering national architecture awards.
In its first year of operation, the library was visited by over 2.3 million people and generated $16 million in new economic activity.
It’s that kind of spirit Levy hopes to bring to his campus. “It had the energy, the creativity, the excitement,” said Levy, his eyes growing with passion.
“It was all about the user. My equivalent is all about the students.”
The biggest hurdle remaining in the way of construction is the former Sam’s site is Sam’s famous neon spinning records which are protected under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Levy has discussed several options with the city, who maintain that the sign be restored and located on Yonge Street.
The school has suggested erecting a replica of the sign within the building itself. The government announced the first $45 million at Ryerson on Thursday, with the money earmarked for the Sam’s project.
The further $7 million was announced as part of a $200-million commitment to fund maintenance at GTA universities and colleges.