The Student Commons, a student-run centre at the St. George campus, is set to open in September 2018. With the deadline fast approaching, here’s what you need to know.
Construction is still underway on most of the building, located at 230 College Street, the former home of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture. It will feature a community kitchen, a conference centre, office space for clubs, presentation galleries, a student-run café, and prayer space. It will also house the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Food Bank.
St. George members of the UTSU are paying a semesterly levy of $10.24 for the Student Commons, which the UTSU can increase by 10 per cent each year. The fee will rise to $20.75 in September.
Currently, only capital expenses are included in the levy. When the centre opens, the capital expenses will increase to $14.25 per semester, and operational expenses of $6.50 per semester will be collected.
The building cost will be in excess of $20 million when completed. About $4.6 million has been collected from the UTSG student levy as of April 2017. The remaining $15.4 million will be financed through a loan taken out by the university on the UTSU’s behalf.
UTSU President Mathias Memmel said the building underwent a full redesign because the original plan was a “recipe for bankruptcy.” In an op-ed published in The Varsity, Memmel explained that the union would have canceled the project if possible, but it was contractually obligated to continue.
“My hope is that the Student Commons will be a service-oriented community centre, as opposed to a costly monument to the vanity of student politicians,” said Memmel in an email. “To that end, we shifted the focus of the project from ‘student space’ to student services. To be clear, there hasn’t been change to the spaces set aside for students and student groups, but it’s important to remember that the original demand for “student space” was really just a demand for UTSU-controlled space.”
Claiming to have made every consequential decision regarding the building and its design over the last eight months, Memmel said that his guiding principle has been the idea of a “community of communities” rather than a “single student community under the control of the UTSU and the idea of the UTSU as a provider of services.”
The Student Commons project began in 2007. Its opening in September will come a year later than forecasted.