Entre Nous with John Gruzleski

Entre Nous with John Gruzleski McGill University

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McGill Reporter
May 12, 2005 - Volume 37 Number 16
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 37: 2004-2005 > May 12, 2005 > Entre Nous with John Gruzleski

Entre Nous with John Gruzleski, McGill Master Plan

Physical McGill


Caption follows
John Gruzleski, outgoing dean of the Faculty of Engineering and chair of the Task Force on Campus Planning.
Owen Egan

The Task Force on Campus Planning is moving ahead with the hiring of a consultant team led by Diamond + Schmitt Architects and du Toit Allsopp Hillier, assisted by Groupe Gauthier, Biancamano, Bolduc and landscape architect Peter Jacobs. This team will assist in the development of a master plan for the physical development of McGill's downtown and Macdonald campuses. (The Glen Yards in Notre Dame de Grâce, site of the proposed new McGill University Health Centre, may be considered as well.) Of key importance to this process is a high degree of involvement and input from students, faculty and staff, as well as the community. Outgoing dean of engineering and chair of the task force John Gruzleski spoke to the Reporter about the process and the principles behind this pivotal planning exercise.

Q: How important is the announcement of a consulting team for this project?

A: It's a major step forward in the process. It's critical to have the right people working with us to develop the master plan and we're very pleased to bring in a top-notch team to work on this project. In keeping with the entire approach of the task force, we conducted the search in a very open, transparent and inclusive manner. There was a wide public solicitation for proposals through newspaper ads and on the internet. We received 26 expressions of interest, which we distilled down to five shortlisted firms. We invited those five firms to McGill in March and gave them a tour of the downtown and Macdonald campuses. They were also part of the discussions at the Rethink Conference entitled EnVision: McGill 2025, where additional input from the broader community — both the McGill community and university partners (neighbours, interest groups, municipal and provincial officials, etcetera) — was shared. That worked out really well. It began the process of raising awareness of the plan and bringing people into the development process. Now that a consultant team has been named, this consultative process will continue and will take various forms including one-on-one encounters and Town Hall Meetings, and will be conducted at various critical stages throughout the plan development.

Q: What happens now?

A: We are getting on with the consultation phase. The consultants have to gather a very large amount of data and they are working closely with Planning and Information Analysis, which already has a considerable amount of historical and recent data. It's clear that the consultants also need to speak to the university community. Through April and May, all deans are being interviewed as well as McGill's senior administrators.

There will be further meetings with key groups and individuals in June. For example, one meeting will be with the Macdonald Campus positioning group, which has been looking at various aspects of Macdonald Campus. The idea here is to build on the excellent planning work that has already been done at McGill and work in partnership with stakeholders according to the task force's guiding principles: commitment to community, responsible stewardship, maintenance of green space and the integrity of the mountain and the preservation of heritage architectural assets. At the end of July, the consultants will present a summary of their findings-to-date to the task force. There will be a heavy emphasis on consultation and feedback within McGill in September through a series of open workshops on different topics. Then the draft report comes out in October and there will be more forums that will involve the broader community and interest groups. After this period of consultation, a final report will be prepared and presented to the Board of Governors by the summer of 2006.

Q: Why is the idea of an open and transparent process so important to the development of the master plan?

A: There are certain things consultants can do. They can look at the campus and tell you where you can build a building and where you can't. But there are other factors that arise from answers to basic questions like "what type of campus would you like to have?" From a student perspective, for example, it's important to know how they view McGill as their home for four years. Would they like to have more open work areas? Would they like to have more spaces on the campus where they could congregate in groups — more open outdoor areas? How do they see our buildings from a practical point of view? How do they see our residences, and are there improvements that could be made? These kinds of questions are important and that's why the consultation process is so important. It goes beyond the purely technical questions that consultants can answer. Consultation is also very important in terms of the community we live in. The downtown campus is in the middle of Montreal and that means we have a responsibility to the surrounding community in terms of the planning decisions we make. In the same way, the Macdonald Campus is surrounded by three soon-to-demerge municipalities. We have to consult with our neighbours there too, and hopefully move forward in a harmonious fashion and in a way that benefits everybody.

Q: What's the best way to stay informed about the work of the task force?

A: We have launched a website (www.mcgill.ca/pia/masterplan) that is up and running and will be regularly updated. This is the best way to keep up to date: all draft reports will be available there so people can read them and provide feedback and comments. There is also an issue sheet and a questionnaire for general suggestions and comments. Project Coordinator Radu Juster has been appointed to facilitate the interface between the wider McGill community and the consultants. Any information, comments, and/or opinions of interest can be forwarded to Radu at radu.juster@mcgill.ca. I invite anyone to present any idea, no matter how outrageous or unconventional. We can't acknowledge suggestions, but we will take every suggestion and comment into consideration.

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