Seventy years ago, the Students’ Memorial Union opened at Queen’s. This original part of the JDUC is the iconic limestone section facing University and Union. It contains several historical treasures, notable spaces (like Wallace Hall), and a lot of beautiful masonry. This part of the JDUC should be rehabilitated and celebrated, and that’s exactly what the JDUC Project will do.
Two additions were eventually added, in 1960 and 1974, which introduced a modernist concrete style that was popular at the time but now stands in stark contrast to the limestone character of the old building. For the last 45 years we have had a stagnant student life centre, even while our student community continued to grow. When the most recent addition to the JDUC opened in 1974, Queen’s had 10,000 students on campus, less than half of our current population.
With all this in mind, it may not surprise you that a replacement for the JDUC was conceived more than 15 years ago. Under that plan, a new student life centre would be long operational on that site. But for reasons that go far beyond the scope of the project, it never came to fruition. What we are left with is an increasingly dysfunctional and unappealing space, occasionally touched up through minor restorations.
As frustrations and concerns mounted over the past four years, it became increasingly clear that we, as students, would have to initiate action. Working hand-in-hand with the University and the SGPS, the AMS has sought to find a permanent and meaningful solution. Through a partnership with the talented architects of two firms (MJMA and HDR), we have reimagined the role that the JDUC could play on campus.
The present JDUC’s many drawbacks and handful of benefits are self-evident, but the hypothetical possibility of redevelopment requires some imagination. So, imagine:
- a student life centre that has your favourite study spots on campus
- somewhere you can always find space to work with your team or all on your own
- something beautiful to view, both inside and out, that honours the traditional Queen’s vibe
- a place where every student can find something for them, whether it’s volunteering on the new clubs floor, working at one of the amazing new services, or practicing self-care with a visit to the new integrated wellness space
- someplace you love sipping a cold or warm drink, like the spacious new outdoor patio
The JDUC Project also allows us to finally get it right on the issue of accessibility. In the current JDUC, accessibility is merely an afterthought. There is only a single ramp access, and it requires visitors to use a series of unreliable automatic doors and get through the whole building to reach the only public elevator. In the new JDUC, accessibility has been considered every step of the way.
At grade entrances at every point-of-entry ensure that nobody will be left out in the cold. More elevators make for a faster trip for everyone, including people with different abilities. And for the first time, some spaces in the historic section will be made fully accessible. Only a bold proposal for change could incorporate these crucial innovations.
The New JDUC will be lastingly sustainable. We want to ensure that this building will be seen as ecologically innovative for many years to come. Advanced energy modeling and thoughtful window placement will make it more efficient than the average new building. We will be prepared for our renewable future, because the new JDUC is prepared to integrate photovoltaic cells and other green tech. Natural light and natural materials will minimize the building’s carbon footprint, while an on-site active Transportation hub could reduce the carbon output of building visitors. The New JDUC must be built to last, and that means that it must be built sustainably.
The JDUC Project as a whole must also be financially viable in order to succeed, which has required months of negotiations and planning. Working together and driven by conviction, we have established a fee structure that allows the project to deliver on all the expectations students have for it while remaining financially accessible. The AMS has committed $500,000 toward a bursary fund that will help students pay the JDUC Redevelopment Fee if they’re facing financial hardship.
We are grateful that the University has stepped up to contribute their fair share. But we also understand that a new student life centre, while top-of-mind for all stakeholders, is not the only priority in the University environment. If undergraduates do not establish a fee this year, the almost $50 million committed by our partners will evaporate and the dream of having a better student life centre will be lost for the indefinite future. We must rise to the challenge so that this unique opportunity does not pass us by.
This referendum will not be the end of the JDUC Redevelopment Project—in many ways, it’s only the beginning. After a successful referendum result, the project will still need approval from the Board of Trustees, the governing body that oversees financial and property matters at Queen’s. After approval from Board, the proposal would move from the “conceptual design” stage toward a more detailed design phase which includes all the electrical, mechanical, and structural specifics of the building.
During this process, the final plans for the building will take shape, and all Queen’s students will be encouraged to participate. Survey feedback, focus groups, and student submissions will continue to guide the course of decisions. The entire Queen’s community will be able to follow the JDUC’s ongoing progress as it prepares to break ground.
Queen’s has an enduring tradition of student contributions to pivotal campus life investments like this one. Whether it’s the construction of Grant Hall in the early 1900s or the more recent Queen’s Centre, the same community-minded spirit continues to bring us together. Let’s keep it going, so that the next generation of Queen’s students have an even better experience.