New buildings in the works at UTM

Plans not finalized for location, full purpose of proposed Robotics Building, Arts & Culture building

New buildings in the works at UTM

UTM plans to build up to three new academic buildings over the next four years, as a part of the implementation of its five-year Academic Plan that it introduced last year.

This year, the campus plans to finalize designs for both a Science Building and a Robotics Building, as well as initiate discussions to possibly construct an Arts & Culture Building. Though construction is slated to start soon, there are very few details about the location or full purpose of the Robotics Building and the Arts & Culture Building.

According to UTM’s Implementation Plan — an evolving document that details the steps that the administration is taking to achieve the Academic Plan — construction of the Science Building is scheduled to begin sometime in the next two years and finish around 2021.

The Science Building will be located between the Davis Building and the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex. It will consist of roughly 7,134 net assignable square metres spread over four floors, with a mechanical penthouse on the fifth floor.

There are also proposals to include a High Performance Computing Data Centre, as well as laboratories and offices, to satisfy the laboratory needs of research facilities at UTM and to accommodate the activities of UTM’s Centre for Medicinal Chemistry, which was launched in 2016 to develop drugs targeting cancer and other diseases.

The Forensic Science program, which is currently located in the Health Sciences Complex, as well as Campus Shipping & Receiving, which is currently located in the William G. Davis Building, are also slated for relocation to the Science Building.

With a budget exceeding $20 million, construction of the Science Building will be funded by a combination of sources, including UTM Capital Reserves and Long-term Borrowing, along with donations and funding. There will also be possible fund-matching from the Provost.

Robotics Building

Construction of the Robotics Building is slated to begin this academic year for an expected opening sometime between 2020 and 2021. However, it is yet to be determined where or why construction will occur.

“[The Robotics Building will be] much like a technical garage for working on autonomous vehicles,” explained Professor Ulrich Krull, Principal of UTM and Vice-President of the University of Toronto, over email.

“This is not intended to be a significant academic building and will be a work shop, likely located near the Paleomagnetism Lab on Principal’s Road,” though Krull added that this was not confirmed.

At the UTM Campus Council meeting on October 3, Krull announced that UTM had already hired three staff members for the Robotics Department.

“The initial robotics faculty members will join their Computer Science colleagues in Deerfield Hall,” wrote Krull.

Arts & Culture Building

The fate of the Arts & Culture Building remains unknown.

“For Robotics and Arts and Culture, there are no decisions about where the construction will happen, and no decisions about the purpose of the buildings,” wrote Krull.

“The Arts and Culture Building is a placeholder for a project that might take place after the science building is completed, and the science building will not be fully complete before 2022.”

Krull added that discussions are in progress, and that any issues must first be considered by a project planning committee before any plans can be finalized for construction to begin.

“UTM has not even assembled these committees as yet,” said Krull. “When there is a consensus it will be possible to move to the project planning stage to lay out firm plans.”

Ongoing construction continues to place stress on campus operations. So far, construction is in progress for an unnamed new building, to finish the new North Building, and to renovate the Davis Building.

Nearly abandoned building at College and Huron in midst of demolition

Building to be replaced with 17-storey residential building

Nearly abandoned building at College and Huron in midst of demolition

building on the corner of Huron Street and College Street is in the midst of demolition as Shiu Pong Group, a real estate developer, plans to replace the current low-slung, multi-purpose residential building with a new 17-storey residential building with retail space on the ground floor.

For this project, Shiu Pong’s plan will produce 142 dwelling units as well as retail space on the street level. The new building is replacing Tasty’s Caribbean Restaurant and Catering and the College Variety, among other restaurants and shops.

Prior to demolition, the Huron and College building housed 15 residential units. During the demolition and construction of the new building, the owners are required to assist the displaced tenants with appropriate living arrangements. Additionally, the tenants must be offered appropriate residence options in the new building at affordable rates.

Since the proposed number of units would exceed the density allowed for the area, the City of Toronto required a specific application to include the site in the “Mixed-Use” category rather than in “Neighbourhoods.”

In addition, the company’s plans put the 17-storey building at 52 metres in height, 36 metres higher than the maximum allowed in the city bylaws. The Staff Report nonetheless recommends that the demolition and construction of a new building be allowed.

Shiu Pong also had to go through a long process of assessing the building’s potential impact on the neighbourhood. A Committee Consultation meeting, held back in October 2013, brought up issues such as parking, and whether the initial building scheduled for demolition was a heritage site.

According to the heritage impact report, the building is not listed under the city’s inventory of heritage sites, nor will it have any impact on any surrounding heritage sites. However, the staff report suggested a design plan that would incorporate the current building into the design of the podium of the new building.

Following review from Shiu Pong, their solicitors agreed to work with Urban Design Staff and City Planning to “respect the heritage ‘look’ of the street” in the revised plans for the podium. The new, incorporated design will feature the terracotta panels from the original building in the three-storey podium base of the building.

While no specific timeline was included in the staff report, Shiu Pong would be required to erect a residential building within two years of the commencement of the project or face financial sanctions until construction was completed.

Shiu Pong has built other residential buildings in the past, including Six 8 Plus in Etobicoke and Design Haus, both of which are currently sold out.


$13 million increase in deferred maintenance over the past two years

Necessary repair costs soar, FCIs shrink

$13 million increase in deferred maintenance over the past two years

The University of Toronto’s annual deferred maintenance report details a staggering number of required repairs for many buildings across all three campuses. Some structures have accumulated up to $50 million in deferred maintenance costs. 

Administrative and academic buildings are rated on the Facility Condition Index (FCI). Buildings with an FCI of 10 per cent or more are considered to be in poor condition. The university’s combined FCI is 13.4 per cent, down from last year’s figure of 14.1 per cent. The average FCI across the Council of Ontario Universities is 11 per cent.

The majority of buildings in need of maintenance are located on UTSG, where 72 out of 104 buildings that were audited are considered to be in poor condition. UTM has the most buildings in excellent condition with nine out of 14 audited falling under that category. UTSC has more buildings in excellent and fair condition than those in poor. For the second year in a row, St. George’s Mary Hall carries the largest FCI of 52.1 per cent. 

The report states that over the past five years, FCIs across all three campuses have been either flat or on the decline; it goes on to say that internal and provincial funding allows U of T to maintain or improve the condition of the buildings audited in the report.

Buildings are placed into one of three categories: priority one items are those that should be rectified within the next year; priority two items are those that should be addressed in one to three years; and priority three items should be addressed in the next three to five years. UTSG has accumulated $23,273,777 in priority one deferred maintenance costs, while UTM sits at $2,490,750, and UTSC at $107,607. 

During this fiscal year, $18,730,000 has been spent in major projects to improve buildings in serious need of repair. The report concludes that funding for maintenance will allow for the improvement of building conditions, although it will not be sufficient to solve all of the present issues.

The Medical Sciences Building — St. George

The Medical Sciences Building is the the most recently audited building on the St. George Campus and is home to U of T’s Faculty of Medicine. It carries a deferred maintenance cost of $54,593,261 and an FCI of 16.9 per cent. 

The Science Wing — UTSC 

UTSC’s Science Wing carries a deferred maintenance cost of $24,848,394 and an FCI of 18.2 per cent. The report does not specify when the next audit of the building will be; it only indicates that the most recent audit was in the 2010–2011 year. 

The Galbraith Building — St. George

The Galbraith Building is part of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and was completed in 1960. It currently houses the office of the registrar and first year office for the faculty, as well as the Department of Civil Engineering. It carries a deferred maintenance cost of $20,801,508, and its FCI is 51.5 per cent. 

The Kaneff Centre for Management and Social Science — UTM

The Kaneff Centre houses the business, commerce, and management programs at UTM, as well as the campus Blackwood Gallery. The building was expanded in 2011. Its deferred maintenance cost is relatively low at $1,626,215,  but it carries a 23.4 per cent FCI, the largest at UTM.

Sidney Smith Hall — St. George

The central building of the Faculty of Arts & Science, carries a deferred maintenance cost of $27,795,964 and an FCI of 44.1 per cent. Both numbers are lower than the previous audit.

Centre for Civilizations and Cultures to replace McLaughlin Planetarium

New building to be built at 90 Queen’s Park Crescent

Centre for Civilizations and Cultures to replace McLaughlin Planetarium

The University of Toronto recently announced plans to construct a new Centre of Civilizations and Cultures. The building will be built at 90 Queen’s Park Crescent, replacing the location’s current resident, the decommissioned McLaughlin Planetarium.

Scott Mabury, U of T vice-president, university operations, emphasized the value of the project to both the university and the global community. “This is a great combination of academic faculties [and] academic superstars… Bringing them together will advance the conversation,” he said.   

The centre will house the departments of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, along with the Institute of Islamic Studies and the research arm of the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. It will also boast an open plaza on the ground floors, an auditorium for the Faculty of Music, and more open access to the Philosopher’s Walk pathway.

Toronto’s Architects Alliance will collaborate on the design with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a high-profile architectural studio. The Architects Alliance has worked with U of T before, assisting with both the Woodsworth Residence and the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. 

When asked why the university was building a new centre as opposed to addressing existing buildings in need of maintenance, Mabury stressed that updates would remain a priority, saying, “We’re doing both.” He pointed to many current efforts to rehabilitate structures, including about 70 different projects across the St. George campus. Mabury also cited more major undertakings to rebuild and repurpose buildings, such as at the Faculty of Law. 

“We needed additional space, and the question was how best to capture the academic needs,” Mabury said.  “How do we create something truly marvelous and exceptional?” 

A report presented to the Business Board of the U of T Governing Council in the spring of 2014 estimated the total cost of deferred maintenance on the St. George Campus at $443 million, well above that of the satellite campuses. The report also argued that the university’s policies have had some success in tackling high priority issues. 

It is not just U of T academics who stand to gain from the new Centre. The surrounding community has been anticipating its creation since the university bought the space at 90 Queen’s Park in 2009. The Royal Ontario Museum, the location’s previous owner and current next-door-neighbour, expressed enthusiasm at the announcement. 

“This development will enhance the area’s overall cultural experience by increasing the number of visitors, programs, and events offered in the Bloor Street Cultural Corridor. The ROM looks forward to collaborating with U of T to present joint programming, exhibitions, lectures and more at both the Museum and the new Centre,” said Marnie Peters, ROM spokesperson.

Some may be sad to see the McLaughlin Planetarium removed entirely, even though it has been closed since 1995. It has been a part of Toronto’s history since its opening in 1968, and has its own place in the culture of the area. However, its prominent location meant that the space was unlikely to go unused. 

The proposal for the centre was first released in September 2014. The complex was originally intended to include the Jewish Museum of Canada, which has since been removed from the plans due to changing funding priorities at United Jewish Appeal. 

There is no definite timeline for the construction, as the project is still in the design phase.