An optometrist’s office has been selected to replace Travel Cuts in the student centre, between Union Market and the pharmacy.
The decision comes after considerable effort by the McMaster Students Union over the past year to gather student input on what kind of business should get the main-floor space in MUSC. A proposal for the MSU to push for a grocery store, which was the most popular choice of a poll on the Students Union’s website, was brought to the MSU’s General Assembly in March, though there was not quorum at the Assembly at the time of the vote.
The decision was made by the student centre’s Board of Management, which includes representatives of both the MSU and the University.
The optometrist was one of four businesses that responded the call for expressions of interest by the Board of Management in December. Each of the others were expansions or relocations of services already existing on campus. Proposals were received from the McMaster Credit Union, the Athletics and Recreation department and Compass Information Centre.
The same group that owns the dentist’s office behind the Travel Cuts space will own and operate the optometrist. The two offices will likely share the storefront that faces the main seating area in the student centre.
Despite having received proposals only from McMaster and MSU organizations, MUSC director Lori Diamond said that a request for expressions of interest was sent to current vendors, vendors who have expressed interest in the past, the Westdale Business Improvement Area (BIA) office and other universities that might have interested vendors.
Although a grocery store was not among those businesses that responded to the Board of Management’s call for expressions of interests, Grocery Checkout Fresh Market was brought in informally to discuss the possibility. Grocery Checkout has locations in the student centres of both Queen’s University in Kingston and Western University in London.
Representatives explained that Grocery Checkout’s operation would require the space of both Travel Cuts and the University Centre Pharmacy next door.
At the time, the Pharmacy and MUSC were in negotiations over a lease renewal. With the Shoppers Drug Mart going in across Main Street and the Pharmacy’s place in MUSC somewhat up in the air, the possibility of using both spaces for a grocery store was open.
Last December, the Pharmacy was asked to suggest a rental price for a new deal. The Board of Management countered with a different number. The counter-offer remained on the table for the few months that followed.
At around the same time as the March 25 General Assembly, then-MSU president Matthew Dillon-Leitch talked with Diamond about the possibility of a grocery store using both the Travel Cuts and Pharmacy space. It was between that discussion and the April meeting of the MUSC Board of Management that Diamond informed the MSU that the Pharmacy planned to accept the Board’s counter-offer.
“I don’t think it’s in good faith in terms of projecting a good business environment that it really would have been all that moral or ethical to pull [the contract offer to the Pharmacy] back because we had potentially another offer for that space,” said Diamond.
There were a couple of key reasons behind the choice to go with an optometrist, said Diamond. Bringing in a third-party vendor, rather than a business or service of the MSU or University, guarantees revenue for MUSC. An optometrist also does not duplicate a product or service already offered in the building.