York unveils “master plan” for Keele campus development

Nicholas Maronese
York University’s new vision for its Keele campus was unveiled April 13, and apparently includes a focus on pedestrian traffic, increased greenery and the possible reorganization of parking spaces and athletic facilities.
The York University Development Corporation’s (YUDC) “Campus in the City” project debuted at an open house event in Vari Hall, at which students could view and comment on almost two dozen panels that showed off new maps, plans and proposed physical changes to the university campus.
Subtitled “Moving Forward: the Master Plan,” the project emphasized three “lenses” through which developers will view the campus: a “Pedestrian First” lens, prioritizing pedestrian and cyclist traffic over automobiles and centering on the new TTC subway stations; a “Greening the Campus” lens, with a focus on tree-lined streets and “greenways”; and an “Infilling the Campus” lens, aimed at better using space in the middle of Keele’s “academic core.”
Various potential changes include shared side roads without sidewalks or barriers, to ramp up pedestrian safety by forcing drivers to slow down; a bike-sharing system that’d let students borrow bicycles for campus use; and a few more high-rise buildings and green courtyard spaces.
The drawings also made room for the proposed new Pan Am Games stadium, which may be erected just west of the Boyer Woodlot. Other athletic facilities would be moved closer to the center of campus, and parking spaces may be shrunk and pushed to the edges.
Christopher Wong, director of master planning with the YUDC, said the plans will be revised based on consultation with stakeholders over the summer, but that the changes realistically reflect the direction the campus will assume over the next few years.
At the open house, students engaged with consultants over the changes; some reactions were quite positive.
“The people who put this together seemed to have a pretty good idea of the university and its needs,” said third-year law major Flynn Paquin, citing the general switch from parking lots and roads to multi-use pedestrian space. “They’ve a pretty good idea of what actually happens on the campus.”
But Paquin was also worried the plans focused too much on “greening” a campus that, for most students studying in the fall and winter, will still mainly feature brown, barren trees.
Wong said while courtyards may not be usable in wintertime, they “provide a visual amenity to the building occupants, bringing daylight into complexes like Schulich and the Seneca@York building.”
The open house was the YUDC’s first information session on the project – they’ve another set for this coming fall – but some students noted it wasn’t well advertised, and spanned only a few hours. “I didn’t know about this at all—it just popped up,” said a second-year liberal arts student. “I think they strategically place it during exam time when not everyone’s on campus.”
Wong explained the presentation panels will be available for download from the YUDC website in the next few weeks.
Looking at photos on several panels, it was apparent the Planning Partnership and Greenberg Consultants Inc., who worked together on the project with the YUDC, drew inspiration from parks and walkways at McGill University in Montreal; in Brooklyn, New York; and in Shanghai, China.

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