Ryerson is moving forward with campus revitalization aimed to enhance the pedestrian zone and increase accessibility, says Nic de Salaberry, director, planning and development.
This spring, construction will begin on Gould and Victoria streets, as well as Nelson Mandela Walk. The project will remove the curbs, creating one level pedestrian zone, almost double the number of trees and also create two new accessibility ramps on the west side of Kerr Hall. Fencing installation starts today, March 27.
This undertaking is part of the larger Ryerson Campus Public Realm Plan, meant to improve the public spaces in which Ryerson is located to enhance safety, accessibility and quality of place, with a focus on “people first.”
“I think if there’s one thing that I would emphasize, as far as the single greatest contribution to the campus, is pedestrians first,” Salaberry said. “For the people who are there, they’ll feel like ‘wow, I’m in a special place, I’m in a Ryerson special place.’”
Ryerson’s president Mohamed Lachemi said although the construction will create a more beautiful space for students, accessibility and safety were the main priorities.
“One of the challenges, especially in during the winter is accessibility,” Lachemi said. “People who are using accessibility devices, it’s very tough for them to navigate our campus.”
Ryerson is not disclosing the cost of the project, as they have yet to settle on a firm figure. However, Salaberry said the $7 million contribution from the municipal government, made possible in part by the efforts of councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, is very significant, but the project will have additional costs.
Salaberry maintains that budgetary constraints the university will experience in the coming academic year won’t prevent the project from moving forward.
“Budget cuts don’t mean that universities stop taking care of their buildings or their spaces, it means that they have to find ways to save money,” Salaberry said. “If you think of a house that you live in, or in this case buildings that we teach and work in, you still need to fix the roof, you still need to make sure that the elevators work [and] all those things, and occasionally you just have to replace them.”
However, construction means there will be some limitations to campus life that will extend until the fall or winter. Events such as Week of Welcome and the farmers’ market will need to be relocated to a temporary home in the quad.
“The reality is that you can’t have this big a project and not disrupt some of the usual course of events and we think it’s unfortunate [and] if there was any other way to do it, we would,” Salaberry said. “But all the other ways that we thought of would cost us more money and more time and be more disruptive in the long run.”
Accessibility is also a concern during the extent of the project, and Salaberry has assured that none of the accessible entrances will be shut without making alternative arrangements. A list of alternative routes will also be available online.
This project is just phase one of two campus core revitalization projects, the second of which will take place on Victoria Street in front of the Tim Hortons in 2020. Although finalizations have yet to be made, the goal of the project is also to emphasize pedestrian experience by widening the sidewalks and replacing curbs with roll curbs.