Expansion remains

By Вen Li

Words and Pictures, the campus comic store, relocated this weekend to its permanent home in the MacEwan Students Centre basement. The move will accommodate a series of changes in retail and other space within the complex as the $9 million expansion and redevelopment project approaches completion.

A memorandum discussed at the Students’ Legislative Council last week confirmed that many changes affecting space used by students are to occur between now and Fall 2003.

“Spiritual space has been allocated in proximity to the Chaplain’s office with the university funding the development,” stated the memorandum from SU General Manager Bryan Pryde. “This may also include the provision of cleansing stations for the Muslim community and renovated washrooms for the increased use of the third floor.”

According to Students’ Union Vice-President Operations and Finance Robbie White, renovation of the spiritual space awaits a financial commitment of $125,000 from the university in addition to the SU’s $200,000. Work on the area, which currently consists of unfinished drywall, ceiling and floors, could start in the spring.

“The Muslim students have more obligatory prayers than other groups–we have to do it, it’s not an option,” said Mohamed Bassyouni, Muslim Students’ Association President. “This is something they have to provide, it’s a part of our religion.”

One of Bassyouni’s concerns is the lack of cooperation between the MSA and the SU. Despite few results from previous discussions with university administration and the SU, he is hopeful that a new facility will be in place by the Fall 2003 semester.

CJSW and NUTV may also relocate to the third level of MSC. Design development for CJSW is in progress, while planning for NUTV’s new space is complete.

NUTV Executive Director Kevin Allen said that architectural plans are complete and the campus TV station is ready to move at any time.

“I’m hopeful that that does take place, but I’m not holding my breath because of all the previous incarnations of the [redevelopment] plan,” he said. “Our current relocation [to the former Taco Time kitchen] was supposed to be for four months; we’re on month 17.”

According to the memorandum, the space currently occupied by NUTV and adjoining Volunteer Services will be redeveloped into additional food-court seating. A new dental office may occupy the current CJSW studio space, while the current CJSW offices will become storage space.

“The CJSW space lacks proper ventilation and storage space is always at a premium,” according to the memo.

In response, CJSW Station Manager Chad Saunders stated that a move into the new space would be welcomed.

“In 2002/2003, so far we’ve only been through two coal mine budgies,” he joked. “I’m glad that when we do move, no one else will have to endure this space. It’s good that they’re going to turn it into storage.”

Allen agreed that the CJSW situation is unfortunate, citing the line regarding proper ventilation from the report.

“That’s pretty damming,” he said. “They’ve been in there for ever.”

CJSW has a few organizational and logistical challenges before a relocation can take place. Saunders remains optimistic that clarification of remaining issues with SU policy regarding ownership of CJSW assets and operations, and the Alberta Societies Act will be resolved prior to the end of the academic year.

“It’s encouraging to know that one day we’ll be able to go to the third floor,” he said. “If we start construction in the summer, the earliest time would be August. We would hope by the funding drive to have a hammer in hand.”

The report also states that the SU has been losing money due to delays in completing the renovation and redevelopment.

“The financial impact from the first six months of the SU budget has been a reduction of about 3.5 per cent of the projected lease revenue,” the report stated. “New retail operations opening late accounted for almost half of the variance and the balance relates to the unleased space that remains unoccupied.”

A $250,000 renovation to the ballroom is also awaiting financial resources.