By Doug Hallett
The University of Guelph is hoping to “soften” the look of the section of Gordon Street running through campus as part of a new 50-year vision for the university’s future, which goes to the U of G’s governing body for approval this month.
The university, which used to be south of Guelph, is now in the middle of the city with a major arterial road, Gordon Street, cutting the campus in half.
“That is not going to change. We understand that,” said Don O’Leary, the university’s vice-president of finance and administration.The new master plan goes to the Board of Governors on Jan. 30.The final version of the master plan, which was posted this month on the university website, suggests a few possible options for a new-look Gordon Street.
“We hope to soften the landscaping and appearance” of the section of Gordon running through campus, O’Leary said in an interview.
There’s plenty of university land on either side of Gordon for improvements to enhance cycling and the pedestrian experience, he said. “There is enough width to our property on both sides to accommodate those sorts of changes to the road.”
The master plan also proposes changes to the “major gateway” to the university at the northeast corner of Gordon and Stone Road, he said. Making improvements to green space there and providing “proper identification” of the university at that location are changes that he expects to “proceed in the short term.”
The master plan also identifies this northeast-corner site as a place for future development, although it doesn’t specify what sort, O’Leary said. Asked if student housing might be built there in the future, he said he thought not. Rather, he said, the site would probably be used for academic purposes.
This site is across Stone from a low-rise hotel that a developer wants to demolish in order to build tall buildings for student housing. The Ontario Municipal Board has yet to rule on the developer’s application, which the university, the city and a neighbourhood association all oppose.
While the new master plan sets out a 50-year vision for the U of G, it uses a 20-year time frame for many of the changes it’s proposing.
O’Leary said the new plan doesn’t propose any significant change in direction for the U of G that might concern the broader community of Guelph.
“We are not looking at any mammoth development” or any growth beyond the university’s current borders, he said. The plan is to retain “a compact campus that is open and friendly.”
The master plan puts “a lot of emphasis on atmosphere” at the U of G, in terms of landscaping, environmental features and “the quality of what we are doing” on campus, he said. There is an emphasis on improving green space and on being “respectful” of existing architecture on campus.
The plan envisions the university growing within its existing borders in coming decades without adding more parking, through more reliance on public transit, he said.
One way in which this plan differs from the university’s 2002 master plan is in identifying “a lot of possibilities” for renewal of existing facilities and new development near College Avenue in the vicinity of Alumni Stadium, he said.
It also envisions more green space on the side of campus west of Gordon Street, he said when listing some of the aspects of the new master plan that he finds noteworthy.
For Johnston Green, the master plan identifies the need for a proper path across and around this historic centre of the campus, in place of the current path worn in the grass.
“I can’t imagine it would be pavement” on the proposed path, O’Leary said. “Some other sort of treatment, I’d think.”