Early this summer, McMaster announced that based on what students voted on, the Student Life Enhancement Fund would be footing the bill for a series of MUSC renovations. This includes changes to Compass, a permanent sound system, and the expansion of Starbucks to include additional seating and a more café-like atmosphere.
Overall, it’s been great having Starbucks on campus. There’s another coffee option for early mornings and late nights, I can keep up with ever-changing pastry trends, and every upper-middle class person on campus can now feel comfortable in a city that greets them with a familiar logo every morning.
With the recent additions of international franchises to the university campus, it’s clear that the current wave of gentrification coming over Hamilton is not ebbing away from campus and its surrounding area. Starbucks is just one of the big name franchises to come to campus over the past few years. Booster Juice and Williams have both also solidified their names at the university, and it’s safe to assume that with the open arms given to a Starbucks expansion, other franchises will be opening up shop on and around campus soon.
While it is exciting to welcome these often already-loved businesses to campus, this does have consequences for students. They may not be present now, but they are on their way.
Hamilton is the “up-and-coming” city of Ontario. As more large-scale companies start to invest in it, the city’s value has gone up, and consequently, so has its prices. It’s easy to think that as a student who isn’t invested in the city or a true “Hamiltonian,” these changes won’t affect us, but all of these new developments in the city are often close to and on campus.
As larger, wealthier businesses and people begin to enter the city, poorer sectors of the community will be pushed aside to make room for the city’s new money. The “poor” can refer to those paying low rents, making minimum wage, attempting to pay off large debts, so in short, students.
As the Student Centre and other spaces on campus become camp grounds for new wealthy investors, it is only a matter of time before rent costs start going up and MUSC is an affordable space for fewer vendors. More inexpensive venues like Taro and Union Market will eventually need to up their costs in order to keep up with growing rents.
And this change to costs is not something exclusive to campus. Investors have already started to revel in the idea of off-campus facilities located in student neighbourhoods. As more thriving businesses come into the Westdale and Ainsliewood areas, so will more thriving citizens, and that could potentially lead to a raise in stable student rents, and a need to mail even more tears to OSAP begging for increased funds.
While I am potentially guaranteed to be one of the first people pulling up a chair at Starbucks’ new café space, inhaling the company’s latest caffeine-cocaine hybrid, it is important to remember that as we advocate for these big names on campus, we are also promoting an all too fast turnaround from a humble, struggling city to a fully franchised capital. This transition can be fine and help the city’s economy get the boost it needs (this past year Hamilton was one of the only cities in the GTHA to see a drop in industrial vacancy rates), but if it happens too fast, we as student consumers will be pushed aside for new ventures before we even have the chance to pull up a chair.
Photo Credit: Square