Master plan for MacHall in the works

Changes are in the works for the MacEwan Student Centre, with a committee creating a master plan for the building throughout the semester.

“What we’re looking at is a long-term plan to understand what should be in the building, what might be there that would be appropriate to be somewhere else, where things should be located,” said University of Calgary associate vice-president facilities development Steve Dantzer. “At this point we are very much in the exploration stage, so we’re just asking questions and asking what ifs.”

Dantzer said the building has become dated and isn’t functioning in an optimum fashion because it grew without a plan.

“First and foremost, we want to understand how we can move the loading docks to the north side, reorganize the space in the existing building and then understand what contribution, if any, the Nickle Arts building would make to the facility,” said Dantzer.

The safety and practicality of heavy trucks mingling with a large amount of pedestrian foot traffic has become an issue.

“In the master plan they’re pretty set on the fact that it will move and that will in turn inform the possibilities of what can come from,” said Students’ Union vice-president operations and finance James Delaney. “Once you move the loading dock, you have to move the service corridors and then once you move the service corridors, you have to move everything that comes off them, like the food court.”

Delaney said the school studied moving the dock from its current location. The underground parking lot was an early option but the large size of transport trucks made the project unfeasible.

If the loading dock is moved to the north side of the building, road access off of Collegiate Boulevard will be a vital corridor. The campus master plan includes the west campus expansion which will make Collegiate Boulevard a fairly main road. Dividing the campus, MSC will have an even more prominent position at the U of C.

“It’s not something that’s going to be implemented overnight by any means but if you have a long-term plan, piece by piece you can work towards implementing that plan,” said Dantzer, adding that the plan is necessary to determine funding.

“I think one of the reasons they do these master plans is that then it’s easier to get people excited about it and it’s easier to fundraise,” said Delaney.

Provincial funding is an issue as the cash-strapped government not only doesn’t have the funds to offer to the project but also doesn’t traditionally fund non-academic spaces.

“What the province does recognize is that there are university administrative offices in the building, such as the Wellness Centre and the Native Centre, student services that are provided by the university, those seem to be supported by the province,” said Dantzer. “There are ancillary activities in there that aren’t eligible for capital funding from the province, so we have to look for other mechanisms.”

The Graduate Students’ Association, another stakeholder in the discussions, is quite happy with the proposed plans for MSC.

“All we ever wanted was our restaurant in a better location and we wanted our office space in one spot and the four plans they’ve showed us so far all have that,” said GSA president James Lange. “From our point of view, from the GSA, we’re actually ecstatic with whichever of the plans happen. There’s one we like more than the others but all four of them are huge improvements to the situation.”

The process is still in the early stages but Dantzer said the group is confident more firm plans will become clear within the next year.

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