Robarts cherry blossoms. CC Flickr by Eric Parker.

In preparation for the Robarts Common construction project, the beloved cherry blossom trees behind the library will be leaving their home temporarily. PAO Horticultural, a nursery located in Hornby, Ontario will relocate and replant the 32 trees that surround the library. This project began on November 12.

The trees were a gift from the Consulate-General of Japan in Toronto, planted on October 12, 2005. The gift was part of the Sakura Project, an initiative to strengthen diplomatic ties between Canada and Japan that spanned from 2000 to 2012. Within that time, 3,082 trees were planted in 58 locations across Ontario,paid for with about $83,000 from public and private donations. Both UTSG and UTSC were gifted with the cherry trees.

Jesse Carliner, acting communications librarian, said that the temporary removal of the trees is intended to sustain a long-term preservation. “Currently, the trees are crowded and competing for light and nutrients,” he explained. “In order to ensure their health and longevity so that future generations may enjoy them, the trees will be spaced farther apart when they are replanted.”

According to Carliner, the trees will return to Robarts by 2018 once the landscape project has been completed. He did confirm that the number of trees planted at Robarts after the construction work will stay the same.

The construction occurring at Robarts is the second phase of an expansion project that has been in the works for years, although the details have changed and been reworked throughout the years. The $74 million project aims to alter Robarts’ looming, brutalist facade. The first phase focused on improving the quality of study spaces and implementing new infrastructure.

The upcoming construction project will include an additional 1,222 study spaces to accommodate the growing student body, bringing the total number of study spaces to 6,027.

The face of Robarts will soon become the Robarts Common, a five-storey glass pavilion facing Huron Street. The project, headed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, is expected to be completed during the 2017–2018 academic year.

“With the cherry blossoms unavailable for the upcoming spring, Robarts will be missing what is seen as an “annual U of T tradition,” said Carliner.

This is a sentiment echoed by Sarah Fellows, a first-year English student, who feels that taking the trees away amounts to taking away a part of Robarts. Fellows expressed that the trees acted as a great de-stresser and a great option for those who wanted to study outside.

Darren Cheng, a fourth-year neuroscience student, said that he has faith in the administration’s goals for the construction. He articulated that so long as the additions are designed with the students’ well-being in mind, he is okay with them. Cheng expressed a hope that the additons will improve the space.

“Photographs of the Robarts Library cherry trees in bloom are a social media phenomenon,” remarked Carliner. “I can’t think of many study or work breaks better than taking a walk or sitting on a bench underneath the cherry blossoms. Beyond U of T, the cherry blossoms also bring a lot of joy to the greater Toronto community.”

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