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Waterloo still building dorm space

Guelph Mercury - August 27, 2002

Construction crews are working feverishly on multi-million-dollar projects at Wilfrid Laurier University so students will have a place to sleep, eat and work as early as this weekend.

In some cases, tradespeople are working 12- and 16-hour days plus weekends to complete projects on time, said Ron Dupuis, assistant vice-president of physical resources.

"At this point, we're pulling out all the stops and if we have to get into overtime, we get into overtime,"-he said in an interview. "We're to the point where some of the people doing electronic things for voice and data may be working well into the night."

It's a time of unprecedented growth at WLU which, like other Ontario universities and colleges, is racing to accommodate a growing number of students this year and in 2003, when the so-called "double cohort" of Grade 12 and 13 graduates floods campuses.

Down the street at the University of Waterloo, renovations and new construction are also underway. But major projects, such as the $35-million Centre for Environmental and Information Technology and an $8.2-million addition to the Engineering 3 building, aren't scheduled for completion until next summer.

A $5.7-million addition to UW's Coutts building, with seven new classrooms, was ready by May and a new $10.8-million co-operative education and career services building, with more than 100 interview rooms, is to be finished in October-November.

But when WLU's first-year students arrive this weekend for a week of orientation, they'll smell fresh paint and open plenty of new doors.

Since April 30, WLU-has had 15 capital projects worth more than $80 million launched, just completed or in the planning stage, according to the university's alumni magazine.

Among those projects, a new $14-million, 316-bed residence on Seagram Drive, called Waterloo College Hall, and a $4 million, 500-seat expansion to the main dining hall on University Avenue are needed within days.

Then, on Sept. 9 when classes begin, the university is counting on having classrooms, 60 to 70 offices and furniture ready in the new three-storey, $8-million Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship, adjacent to the Peters Building.

Expanded health services offices were finished this month.

However, the library, which was closed during the summer for renovations, will not be open for "more or less regular service" until about Sept. 20, librarian Sharon Brown said.

Bedrooms at Waterloo College Hall are mostly complete, but hallways are still being worked on and multi-purpose rooms and food service area won't be ready until October.

"We need to have students moving into their rooms Labour Day weekend, Sunday and Monday,"-Dupuis said. "We will be there for sure.

"There will be inconvenience. People's boxes won't be unpacked (but) they'll have a home, they'll have a phone."

Thanks to extended shifts, a project that would normally take 15 to 18 months is being accomplished in 10, he said.

"It's been an extraordinary effort.

Meanwhile, furniture is being moved into the dining hall, which is doubling in size, and kitchen staff began training yesterday for a new style of service featuring a variety of food centres.

"It will be open Sunday and Monday when kids need to eat," Dupuis said.

Above the dining hall, a new senate and board chambers will seat more than 200 people.

And at the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship, contractors are working shifts to get offices and lecture theatres ready by Sept. 9. "As we speak, we're putting in carpet and tables."

WLU also plans to review parking, which could mean construction of a garage in the future, Dupuis said. With the completion of new spots at the former St. Michael school across University Avenue, Laurier will have 2,000 spaces, but it also has agreed "to satisfy the deficiencies" by September 2005.

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