Private funding sought for residence

barbara black

Advertisements were placed in local newspapers last week inviting interested parties — developers, landowners, service operators, general contractors — to help the university provide student residence spaces.

For years, Montreal had cheap rents and it was easy to find accommodation, but no longer. Only 147 students can be housed in the small residence on the Loyola Campus, and there will be about 50 more spaces in what used to be the Jesuit residence this fall.

Downtown, where 80 per cent of the students have most of their classes, there is no residence at all. That puts Concordia at the very bottom of the heap when it comes to an important student service, according to Tony Vanvari, who is in charge of special projects for Facilities Management.

“Out-of-town students especially are telling us it’s important to have a residence close to the university,” Vanvari said. “Parents are concerned about where their children are living, so it’s a way to attract more out-of-town students.”

The parties who respond to the ad may propose one or more buildings, renovated or new, for either campus. They will undertake the design and construction, and keep the revenue from the leases for a given length of time; after say, 25 or 30 years, the university will have the opportunity to buy the building.

The advantage of this arrangement to the university is that the massive project will be virtually cost-free. (Quebec does not fund university residences.) One advantage to the successful candidate is that the building will be assured of high occupancy.

While the offer to the developers is open-ended, Concordia is quite precise about what the residence must be like and how it will be run.

When the residence project started last November, a detailed report was drawn up by Melanie Drew, Director of Health Services, and Martine Lehoux, Director of Facilites Planning and Development, with the help of consultants CIM.

It specifies, among many other things, that the new housing must be walking distance from the university, so two areas have been defined, one for each campus.

This first phase of the residence project will provide about 500 beds in studios and units of two and three bedrooms, and will include adapted units for students with disabilities. Ultimately, the goal is to have 1,500 beds.

Interested parties are being offered an information package at Facilities Management on the 11th floor of the GM Building that includes the detailed specifications.

An information meeting will be held April 25, after which they may submit their proposals. Six to eight will be chosen for closer examination, and the design phase could begin as early as this September.