The most recent problem with the digital library plans? Loading docks.
The University of Calgary’s plans to construct a revolutionary learning centre known as the Taylor Family Digital Library, as well as a green space and pedestrian area called the Taylor Quadrangle are once again conflicting with vital existing infrastructure. Both projects will likely require removal of the loading docks and all roads on the south side of MacEwan Student Centre.
“Those are the busiest loading docks on campus,” said Students’ Union vice-president operations and finance Cody Wagner. “They are extremely important to this university, not just Mac Hall.”
Wagner noted that the estimated cost of moving the docks and the existing library’s loading dock is $50 million.
The docks are the supply line for every vendor in MSC and also provide access for concerts and other events. Their current position forces large trucks into the centre of campus regularly.
“We want to get vehicles out of the central core,” said associate vice-president of campus planning Karen Synder. “Having 18-wheelers drive by you on the way to class is not the environment we want.”
Synder notes the university has several studies underway to determine the best place to relocate the docks.
“In hindsight, having loading docks placed at the centre of campus was not the best way to set it up,” explained U of C vice-president external relations Roman Cooney. “This might be an opportunity to find a better place. We are not proceeding without consulting with students.”
As of yet, no plans are final.
“There was an initial proposal to get rid of the Nickel Arts Museum and create an underground [tunnel] system,” said Wagner, stressing that no plans were finalized. “If there are any structural changes, we haven’t heard yet.”
University administration maintains that the benefits of the quadrangle outweigh the inconvenience of reconstruction.
“It’s more than a green space,” said Cooney. “It is not simply a nice lawn. This will be the central hub of the university. It doesn’t make sense to have a loading dock where the natural centre of campus will be.”
The SU is waiting cautiously for finalized plans to emerge.
“We don’t know what kind of compromises we’ll need to make because the aesthetics of the actual building designs haven’t come in yet,” said SU president Emily Wyatt. “But I trust the people we have planning this, and they’re right to say we don’t really have a central hub on campus.”
The digital library project has been mired with set backs since it was first announced Apr. 1, 2006. Skyrocketing building costs forced the university to look for private donors to supplement the initial $113 million investment made by the provincial government. Don Taylor, former head of Engineered Air, and his wife Ruth donated $25 million to the projects that now bear their name.
Fine arts students were also upset when they learned that Craigie Hall C, home of the Boris-Roubakine recital hall, will likely be demolished to make room for the Taylor Family Digital Library.
The digital library was to be finished by 2008, but that deadline has been pushed back to 2009, with plans to break ground this spring. Building plans and a completion date remain indefinite.