The University of Ottawa plans a “transitional” year for 2021-2022

Kathy Moyer

More information has been revealed about the University of Ottawa’s 2021-2022 school year and how the University plans to eventually house a greater number of students in on-campus accommodation. Details were shared as part of a virtual Sandy Hill Town and Gown Committee meeting that took place on March 23.

Attended by University and City of Ottawa staff, along with members of the Sandy Hill community, the Town and Gown Committee is dedicated to enhancing communication and relationships between the groups. The Committee meeting in March was the first discussion since June 2020.

The University has 43,000 students enrolled, the majority of whom have been studying off-site and online due to the pandemic. The academic year beginning this September will be seen as a transitional one, with the goal to provide all students with the choice to take at least one course on campus.

This slow return to normal will increase the number of students in on-campus accommodation. This year, about 850 students are being accommodated in five buildings. This is expected to increase to around 3,150 students in September, about a thousand students fewer than were accommodated before the pandemic. Physical distancing guidelines mean that move-in dates will be spread out, with students expected to arrive on campus as early as August 21.

Turning to the future, the University of Ottawa’s owned or leased student accommodation buildings do not currently have the space to house the estimated 6,500 students who will need on-campus housing by 2025. These projections are currently being reviewed to take into account the pandemic and potential change in the mix of students seeking enrolment.

Plans will also need to account for the fact that four current residences—Marchand, Stanton, Thompson, and Leblanc—will likely be decommissioned within three years, creating a further potential shortfall of 1,347 beds.

As a result, over the next five to 10 years the University is considering making use of the existing condo developments along Rideau Street and in the ByWard Market, as well as potentially developing various University-owned properties. These include Brooks Residence on King Edward, and land at 30 Mann, 1 Robinson Ave., and 200 Lees Ave. With the University’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030, any new builds would have to meet certain environmental standards and could potentially bring new green spaces or commercial businesses to Sandy Hill.

Going forward, the University plans to work with a consultant to develop a research plan, gauging community, alumni, university staff needs, affordable housing concerns, and more. Action Sandy Hill will be involved in this process and more information will be shared after the next Town and Gown meeting in the fall.

This summer the University of Ottawa put up this “Welcome” sign in the spiral coming up from the uOttawa LRT Station. A University official says that KWEY is Algonquin for “Welcome.” — Bob Meldrum
Photo Bob Meldrum