AMS meeting Nov. 7th – Nancy and Arts

Lowdown on yesterday’s meeting: it was exhausting, and sort of charged up for some weird reason. I think order was poorer than usual somehow. Maybe it’s the pressure of the end of the year building up.

Anyway. The meeting began with Nancy Knight, the Administration’s AVP campus & Community Planning. Nancy always puts on a good show, and her presentations to AMS council always bring about some interesting discussion. She was presenting about the re-consultation results and new recommendations she’s put together for U-Blvd. Or rather, the subset of the University Boulevard Neighborhood known as “University Square”. As outlined a couple posts ago, the consultation and revised plans have been going on in collaboration with students over the past several months. Nancy summarized the results from both the July and September consultations, and then went on to describe a preliminary revised plan for the square area. You can see the “before and after” diagrams for the building plan below. Outlined in yellow is the university-boulevard neighborhood, as specified in the Official Community Plan. Outlined in red is the University square subset of that plan.

Above, is the diagram for the plan before last May’s Board meeting. note the buildings on both sides of the proposed plaza, and the lack of a knoll, and the boxed-in entrance to the SUB.

Here is what Nancy showed us yesterday. The blue building footprints on the west side (ie. over top of Hennings, Hebb and Ladha) aren’t new buildings – they’re just there to indicate that the border of the square precinct is being pushed back and integrated with the academic buildings. Note the re-appearance of the knoll. The U-shaped building is the only one that would have residential of the upper levels. It’s left tip is meant to be some sort of alumni/welcome centre/ community hall/SUB expansion concept. The ladder-like thing is a prospective covered walkway from the opening of the underground loop to the SUB. The Square in the trees is supposed to be some sort of student lounge or social space.

for more riveting details, check behind the jump

Nancy talked about four elements in the revised open space plan:

  • Knoll (re-created green space)
  • Plazas (with green elements)
  • Walkways (with green elements)
  • Patios and seating areas

Also five elements in the revised building program (130000-160000 sq ft, depending on SUB renew plans)

  • Offices/Classrooms/meeting rooms
  • Student lounge/social spaces
  • Food outlets/ student businesses
  • Student housing
  • Community hall (ie. alum, welcome centre, etc)

She emphasized the importance of having a “mixed use” space in the square: that is, one with both daytime uses (shops, offices) and 24-hour ones (residential, study spaces). Clearly, in some ways this vision of a complete cocktail of uses doesn’t always jive with what people want. For example, in the cases of offices, most commercial, and residential, the results from the surveys were very negative. I asked Nancy yesterday what she does as a planner in instances like these when feedback tells you something that you disagree with. She replied that you try to deal wit the underlying qualitative worries. For instance, with the housing, a lot of the qualitative concern surrounded the ideas of unnaffordability, market housing, non-student residents, and so on. So even though residential is still included in the new plan, it’s half as much, she’s guaranteed that it will be only for students, and it will be in the price range of the residences, run by a non-profit. I found this fairly convincing. I still haven’t heard a great case for office and classroom space to be included though.

That said, this thing is a vast improvement to me. The aren’t buildings boxing the square, and the knoll is the central green feature. It feels more open, and the shift in emphasis from commercial uses to community and student-focused uses are quite good. Also, this isn’t final. A lot depends on what the AMS depends to do regarding SUB renewal. Expanding SUB into the square could mean AMS administered social space, and more AMS businesses in the square area. I think that’s pretty cool.

In other council business, the Arts caucus had a bit of a show of strength yesterday. They came decked out in faculty colours, wielding purple pom-poms, sporting a minty-fresh representative (AJ Johal), and ready with THREE motions (in varying degrees of silliness and obsolescence) from the floor (much to Jeff’s frustration {and much to my rage, when a notably trivial issue was referred to code and policies}). A feisty AUS Pres Stephanie Ryan put it this way: “we’ve decided to be more effective. We do this by wearing purple, and reading documents before council”. And indeed, read documents they had. SAC minutes, which are usually ignored, and rubber-stamped, were dissected by Arts councilor Sam Heppell before they were finally approved. Recent questions about SAC (specifically the rules governing how they constitute and de-constitute clubs) have potentiated their forthcoming presentation to council.

Other stuff on the agenda was approval of policies coming out of Blake Frederick’s housing document. These were deferred to the next meeting, since they had only been sent out half an hour before council. The document itself had been sent out way before, and the policies didn’t differ in content from the document, but, the arts caucus, in a self-righteous tizzy, (and ironically having just proffered three motions from the floor) said it was not enough time. As a result, the document can’t be used to lobby administrators until the new year. I guess there always has to be a balance between good “process,” and common sense. Having read the document, and discussed it with Blake, I’m think it was as ready as it’s going to be.

Time is a pretty sensitive issue all around. Not enough time, people wasting each other’s time, and so on. I happened to be sitting next to one of the new Education reps (I think her name was Dana). It was her first council meeting. When asked how she liked it, she said something like “Very interesting…but I think some people should be more careful with how they use other’s time”. Amen to that.


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