NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

The opening of the Student Commons — a proposed student centre that has been in the works for over a decade — has been delayed from September 2018 to January 2019. According to the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), which is in charge of running the centre, the postponement is due to unexpected construction delays.

Though they will not have an exact opening date until the construction nears completion, UTSU Vice-President Operations Tyler Biswurm told The Varsity, “We are as confident as we could possibly be in our projected open date.”

Biswurm explained that since the Student Commons building at 230 College Street is over 100 years old, it presents its own unique renovation difficulties.

“Due to contemporary limitations in construction techniques, the poor quality of building materials used, and the loss of architectural documentation to time, multiple unforeseen obstacles have presented themselves in the implementation of plans for the Student Commons,” said Biswurm.

Both the proposed Operating Levy fee of $6.50 and the increased semesterly levy of $14.25 will be pushed back to the second semester in accordance with the building’s delayed opening.

The approaching opening of the Student Commons marks the end of a journey that began in 2007, when students voted to implement a levy to fund the Student Commons. The project has since faced tremendous financial difficulties, with a 2016 budget plan forecasting a $300,000 deficit in the first year. A 2017 estimate lowered this amount to around $27,000.

Prior to this most recent delay, the building’s opening had already been pushed back from September 2017 to September 2018. During this time, changes had to be made to the plan to decrease the likelihood of bankruptcy, as the building’s agreement outlining the UTSU’s terms of use states that U of T will have the right to seize control in the case of two consecutive years of deficits following the first three years of operation.

Biswurm confirmed that the building is still on track to report a surplus in its third fiscal year, which will keep the building in the hands of the UTSU.

Among the groups that had planned to move into the Student Commons in September is the UTSU, which will remain in its current office at 12 Hart House Circle during the first semester. On behalf of any other groups that had planned to move into the building as of September, “the UTSU did negotiate extended occupancy permissions for all service groups and levy groups that had been promised space.”

Biswurm emphasized that all student groups are a priority for the UTSU as the Student Commons takes shape, adding that “whether it be for hosting their events programming, for hosting their regular office hours, for use as [a] convenient meeting space, or for use as a staging ground for events, the Student Commons is built to facilitate the vital role clubs play on the U of T campus.”

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