By: Tashy Davidson

McMaster is moving along with plans to build a residence just off the east end of campus, on Main Street West between Forsyth Avenue South and Dalewood Avenue.

Last year, McMaster owned only the section of land on the corner of Dalewood Avenue and Main Street West, but has since bought the rest of the block from scholar properties, so that they now own the full stretch from Dalewood Avenue to Forsyth Avenue and from Main Street West to Traymore Avenue.

“McMaster is a land-locked 300-acre campus and we’ve worked hard to find appropriate sites on campus for new buildings. … There is not a suitable site on campus for this kind of project,” said Gord Arbeau, director of communications at McMaster.

On a number of building projects, such as the extension of Ann Bourns Building and the Peter George Living and Learning Centre, the university has worked within its existing boundaries. But the proposed Main Street West residence would not.

The university recently began the site plan approval process with the city of Hamilton, where members of affected neighbourhood associations can voice their concerns. If McMaster’s proposal is approved, the next step will be to obtain a building permit from the city of Hamilton.

Right now, there is no set construction date since it depends on the outcome of the public consultation.

If approved, there will be two stages to the construction process.

Phase one would see the construction of a 12-storey, 950-bed residence on the corner of Main Street West and Forsyth Avenue.

Phase two would extend the building to Dalewood Avenue and include 450 beds, but its construction will depend on “demand and market conditions,” Arbeau explained.

Either way, the 950- or 1,400-bed residence would become part of McMaster’s on-campus residence system, operating under the same policies and regulations and offering the same programming and services as other residences.

In addition to the proposal for the Main Street residence, McMaster has already begun construction of the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning, which will hold 500 beds and open Sept. 2019.

Between the academic years 2004-2005 and 2012-2013, full-time undergraduate and graduate student enrolment increased 28 per cent.

These new beds will help to satisfy increasing demand for on-campus housing. With a current total of 3,578 beds, McMaster “cannot guarantee a residence spot for first year students,” said Arbeau.

As a result, McMaster guarantees residence only to incoming undergraduate students with a high school average of at least 83.5 per cent. According to admissions data from 2016, that would leave about 15 per cent of first-year students having to find a home off-campus.   

In one way or another, many Ontario universities involve high school grades in the residence application process. For some it is a matter of a room guarantee, while others give those with higher averages priority in selecting a residence.

For example, some college residences at the University of Toronto base their acceptance decisions on high school grade averages. The higher the demand for a residence, the higher one’s grade average must be to get into it.

McMaster faces the question of how it should fill its existing space while it works on providing more beds. All universities have to make decisions about how to fill their residence spaces, and some choose to put into use the same hierarchy used in admissions.

Either way, organizations such as the Society of Off Campus Students have an important social role to fill during this waiting period, especially when it comes to integrating first-year students living off-campus.

Bordered by Cootes Paradise and residential streets, McMaster has a lot to keep in mind as its student population grows, and as its infrastructure grows in turn.

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