University College at night. Matthew Manhire/THE VARSITY

University College (UC) is set to undergo a major renovation after proposed initial stages of the UC Building Revitalization Project received approval from the University of Toronto Governing Council. The project is concerned with four key elements: a focus on undergraduate students, maintaining the heritage of the building as a national historic site, improving accessibility, and contributing to the recognition of UC as the founding college, and face, of U of T.

The renovations will be split into four main phases, the first and second of which have been given approval. Construction is set to begin in September 2016.

The first phase includes the transition of the Laidlaw Library into the east hall of the building, using the current room for a variety of academic purposes. The west hall of the building will be converted into the ‘Clark Family Reading Room,’ named for Edmund Clark, former CEO of TD Bank, and his wife Fran, following their generous donation of $2.5 million in support of the renovation project. This phase will include many vital accessibility improvements, including an elevator in the front stairwell and ramps to all entrances of the building, as well as fundamental building repairs.

The second phase of the project will see various renovations to the Croft Chapter House, the iconic circular room on the south west side of the building. In an effort to promote research done at the university the room will be revamped into a conference centre. It will see various functional changes to lighting, acoustics, and technological integration, with the adjoining senior common room being used for reception.

The third and fourth phases are still being planned and are pending approval, but they will include renovations to the outdoor quad and the classrooms throughout the building. These renovations will improve the general functionality of the spaces making them more useful for the student body.

University College principal Donald
Ainslie hopes the renovations will help make students more aware of the unique history of the college. “We want to make sure that when a student is in a class at UC, they can’t help but feel the special story of the University of Toronto that UC embodies; the commitment to an open, non-sectarian education.”

Ainslie first began planning for the renovation with his installment in 2011. “In the first year as Principal in 2011-2012, it became apparent to me that the building wasn’t really serving twenty-first century students particularly well, and was needing some attention to make it work better for our students.”

The UC Building Revitalization Project Planning Committee was established in 2014 and has been met with great support from UC students. “Everyone should be able to enjoy [UC] and I’m glad that UC is taking initiative to make the space more accessible. Other renovations will be useful as well for future students to enjoy the space while still admiring its history,” said second-year political science and criminology student Meher Singh.

Gita Goolsarran, a third-year UC student, is excited for the renovations and hopes that they will help to foster a sense of community within the college. “I’m very hopeful that these renovations will give students more enjoyable spaces to study and relax, as those are actually quite limited in our college.”

The first and second phases of the project are due to be completed by January 2017, but the timing is contingent on adequate security funding, as well as the construction and design processes.

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