MacEwan Student Centre officially opened on Nov. 17, 1967. It is the heart of campus and is a place where University of Calgary students come to meet, eat and study. Over time, however, MacHall has become dated and redevelopments and maintenance are needed in order to continue providing valuable services for students.
The MacHall Master Plan, a planning project that will look into a possible overhaul and redevelopment of the building over the next few years, is currently in the beginning stages. Stakeholders, most importantly students, will be consulted so the building best meets their needs. About 5,000 students will be part of the process and consulted about improvements to many spaces.
The university administration, the Students’ Union and the Graduate Student Association are part of a committee to create and develop the Master Plan.
At this point, a majority of students are concerned with food options, more space and better study areas. The MacHall Master Plan will look at all possibilities to decide how to best move forward.
“MacHall is all right as it is, but it would be cool if it were more modern,” said second-year economics student Jeremy Fernando. “We have the [Taylor Family Digital Library], and we have the [Energy, Environment and Experiential Learning building], so MacHall would fit in more with all of these nice, new buildings.”
According to SU president Hardave Birk, it is important that a strategic roadmap with a long-term vision is set in place for MacHall.
“The university is essentially creating a document to move forward, a master planning exercise with a goal of ensuring that [MacHall] meets students’ needs, and if any redevelopments happen, they work for students and were decided by students,” said Birk.
Two years ago, the SU and the university administration engaged in a small consultation process and asked students what changes they wanted to see. Birk said this process must become larger and reach out to more students.
“We at the SU personally feel that students haven’t played a large enough role in the process, and now it is very important for us to get out there and reach out to students and ask them what they want in their student centre,” said Birk.
Birk said between $150–200 million is the estimated cost to revamp the entire building. Upgrades, maintenance and ensuring the space is well utilized is the main part of the process.
“We really do care about what students think about the building, especially if we are talking about doing millions of dollars worth of redevelopments,” said Birk. “There’s no point in changing a student centre if [students] aren’t getting anything out of it.”
There is already work underway, like the Stör renovation and bathroom upgrades. New waste bins were also installed last winter. According to Birk, more work is still needed.
The plan is still in its early stages, so the exact direction or timeline is unknown. Student participation is the first priority.
“An important question we need to ask is how can we make [MacHall] a place students want to be in, and the best way is to ask students themselves,” said Birk.
Students’ opinions will be gathered in a number of ways, including online surveys, interactive displays, town halls meetings and canvassing, said Birk. He also hopes students can inspire new ideas on how to make the space in MacHall better for all who use it.