Ryerson Theatre School students will soon have a temporary new home: the lower levels of the Student Learning Centre (SLC), where space meant for retail is sitting unused.
Students have known a move was on the horizon since last October, when The Ryersonian reported that the building at 44 Gerrard St. had become badly worn down. The theatre school will leave that building by the end of the year to occupy renovated space in the SLC.
According to university president Sheldon Levy, a decision has yet to be made about where the theatre school’s permanent home will be. Lack of interest from retail tenants opened up the stop-gap solution.
“There was no one who wanted to get lower level retail,” Levy said. He added that the size of the lower level was a deterrent to potential retailers.
“Given that no one wanted to lease it, what are you going to do with it? It seemed ideal for theatre students.”
Levy said the renovations won’t have an impact on existing study space.
While the move to the SLC is temporary, Levy said it’s necessary to address the problems with the theatre school building now.
“What you don’t want is in five years, someone saying, ‘It’s beyond (repair)’ and you have done nothing. And suddenly, you’re legitimately criticized,” he said. “So before there’s a crisis, let’s move on it. … And while we’re doing it, we’re looking at all the options for the permanent location of theatre.”
Levy said the school is exploring options such as partnering with a condo developer to allocate space for the theatre school in a new development or partnering with a local theatre to find a new space for students.
Ryerson Students’ Union president Andrea Bartlett said there are still changes to be made to the SLC space before it’s ready for students.
“I walked down there a few weeks ago and it’s concrete and piping, but I have faith that they are not just going to put students in a space like that,” Bartlett said in an interview.
The RSU has been vocal in the past about the SLC being used for student study space, which they say has been lacking on campus. But Bartlett said she sees the theatre school moving in temporarily as fitting into this mandate.
“If this is what theatre students need, and it’s stuff that they want, then (the RSU) is supportive of it, especially if it is going to help fix the building for the long term.”
If the theatre school is going to move into the SLC, Bartlett said she supports their use of the currently vacant space.
“If it isn’t currently being used for study space, then I am not as worried as if they were to completely take over the beach (level six of the SLC), for example.”