“It’s a very exciting time to be at UTSC,” said U of T Scarborough principal Frank Vaccarino.
Plans for expansion of the crowded campus of roughly 10,000 students have been given a boost by the coming 2015 Pan Am Games.
Ideas under consideration include more academic and residence buildings, an extension to the TTC’s light-rail plan that reaches campus, a performing arts centre, and replacing a section of Military Trail with a pedestrian walkway, complete with cafés and trees.
But the largest idea under review resulted from the coming Pan Am Games athletic centre. Vaccarino’s office has commissioned Pannell Kerr Forster consulting firm to complete a feasibility study on a hotel and convention centre. Results are expected within a month.
“We’re being real careful with this,” said Vaccarino. “It represents a potential opportunity but before we jump to that, it’s an area we have to understand well.
“UTSC has a substantial space shortage. We’re not able to properly accommodate visitors.”
Vaccarino said a hotel and convention centre could be used to house visiting athletes for the Pan Am Games and other sporting events. He noted the area has much less surrounding accommodation than St. George campus, and said the new buildings could host families visiting students, academic conferences, and international speakers.
The closest hotel to the campus is a 10 km drive. At a conference held last year, guests were lodged in some of the unused residence rooms.
UTSC student Kevin Wang said he’s concerned about rising student fees. A $30 million escalating student levy was approved by a March referendum to build an athletic centre for the 2015 games.
“We already had the referendum which would shortchange a lot of us for next few years for an athletic facility, so adding to that might be a very bad idea.”
“As long as they don’t make us pay another levy, I’m fine with it. [It’s] nice to have more development in our neighbourhood,” said student Martine Lee. “Hopefully we can make use of the hotel or convention centre for student events as well.”
Vaccarino stressed that levies are out of the question. “A student levy would not be part of the funding plan for such a project,” he said, adding that a campus expansion would enrich the local community.
“This is really an opportunity for UTSC to play a role in the development of this region,” said Vaccarino. “When the GTA amalgamated, this area lost some of its self-definition and the UTSC vision is to be an anchor and a catalyst for the region.”
All new developments would take place on the north side of Ellesmere Road, a 50-hectare area owned by the campus currently used for parking spaces and parkland. Called the north campus, the area’s first building, a $78-million instructional centre, is almost complete and is planned to open in March.
The athletic centre, which will include two Olympic-sized swimming pools and space for multiple sports, is planned to be built at the north end of the area, bordering city land. The proposed hotel and convention centre would likely be placed beside the athletic centre.
With files from The Globe and Mail.