Ultra Vires


Broken promises: Latest updates on building progress

uv_2Kent Kuran (2L) | Photo by Nadia Guo (2L)

The Faculty of Law’s expansion project is on track to be completed for February 2016, according to Interim Dean Jutta Brunnée, though there is still “some wiggle room.” While construction over the summer seemed to progress slowly from the outside—with the foundation for the new additions only becoming visible in September—Brunnée explained in an interview that the project “is now going on schedule and on plan.” Students following the video feed of the worksite have been waiting to see the new structure rise up, but much of the work remains largely unseen.

Brunnée, who is looking forward to the speedy conclusion of the delayed project, is already drawing up plans for the Faculty’s eventual return to the west side of Queen’s Park from Victoria College: “In the second term [of 2015-16], we will hopefully be able to take possession of the building. In due course, early next year to the middle of next year, we will have to start talking with people about what makes sense to do at that point in terms of using the building.” Options include moving the school back midway through the 2016 winter term, or waiting until the following school year.

The Class of 2016 had been promised they would have the building for their last year of studies, and the Faculty’s “Building Construction Timeline” webpage still erroneously lists summer 2015 as the “Substantial Completion” target.

The delays are due in large part to permit issues with the City of Toronto. Prior reporting by Ultra Vires, based on U of T’s Governing Council reports, indicated that the local councilor in Ward 20 – Trinity-Spadina (Adam Vaughan, who is now the federal Liberal MP for Trinity-Spadina) “withheld approval of the tree removal permit” due to residents’ concerns. However, the University managed to secure the necessary authorizations after City Council voted to approve the project, overriding the regular bureaucratic process.

As development on the project continues, the Faculty is starting to focus on the finer finishes. “In October there will be a furniture fair and there will be samples for people to look at and give their views,” said Brunnée, explaining that interior features will be decided on soon.

As for accelerating the project, which had been raised by former Dean Moran, Brunnée was less certain: “At any given time things happen as fast as they can happen.” She said there are currently no plans to move up the target completion date. This reflects a departure from remarks given last academic year by the University’s VP Operations, Scott Mabury, about “active discussions” to “make up lost time.”

The Expansion Project includes significant renovations to the existing Bora Laskin Pavilion Wing, which overlooks Philosopher’s Walk, as well as the construction of the new Hal Jackman Crescent Wing on Queen’s Park Crescent West, with views of downtown Toronto. Additionally, a new Queen’s Park Forum will connect the two glass structures to the existing heritage-designated Flavelle House. While Flavelle, a former Millionaire’s Row mansion which still retains much of its antique flair, has seen renovations in the past, it is not part of the current revitalization project. However, the Faculty’s Chief Administrative Officer, Paul Handley, notified the law school community that the basement of Flavelle will undergo limited asbestos and mould remediation in September. The mould and asbestos was discovered as part of room inspections conducted in the summer.

According to the University’s Report on Capital Projects as of May 31, 2014, the building cost has so far increased by $600,000 over the original $54 million projected cost. (To put it in context, $600,000 could cover one year’s tuition for nearly 20 students). According to Brunnée, the decision on how to rectify the cost overruns, including extra rent for the longer stay at Vic, has yet to be made. Former Dean Moran had proposed additional fundraising, lower quality finishes, or somehow absorbing the costs into the regular budget.

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