As part of the construction process for the new Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU) building at MacEwan University’s City Centre Campus, certain areas of the school will be temporarily shut down in the coming months.
Among the areas that will be disrupted, the pedway above 109 Street will likely be closed down temporarily. The pedway is a high-traffic area for students and faculty, as it links the Sports and Wellness facility with the Robbins Health Learning Centre and eliminates the need for people to use the crosswalk on the street below.
According to SAMU Vice President Operations & Finance Amy Beard, there’s no real way to get around the temporary shutdown because of where the building is being constructed.
“The SAMU building is going to be integrating into the pedway,” Beard said. As she explained, the current plan is that “the building reaches … the front of 104th there, and then it goes to the back of the gym, right around 105.”
This means that while that section of the building is being done, there’s a chance the pedway area will become structurally unsafe.
Beard said concerns were raised about something potentially ly dangerous happening while people are crossing the pedway during construction.
“You never know, right, so it’s basically a safety concern at this point. And we have a third floor as well, so there will be some construction above as well. And if anything fell through (the third floor during construction), anything like that, that could be kind of a safety concern.”
“We’re trying to be the least invasive as possible, and it’s because of the structural elements of the project,” Beard said. “That’s why we need to go in there. We can’t just build on top of another building without thinking of that.”
As for when the disruptions will happen, Graham Construction’s senior project manager, Travis Gilson, said one thing is for certain: the pedway will not be closed for construction during the winter months. This news might reassure those students who have to go back and forth between buildings, as it means they can avoid the miserable weather conditions Edmonton sees during its winters.
‘Sometimes wheelchair users have a hard time getting out of their comfort zone and into a university, so the least anyone could do is show they are welcomed and thought of.’
Beard could not say when each individual area would be disrupted, but she was able to speak on when the building’s construction is expected to start.
“The SAMU building is slated to start in the summer of this year,” she said. “We’re just working out some scheduling with spring and summer sessions to minimize that disruption right now, but it looks like it’ll be (an) early summer start.”
“We are working as hard as possible to ensure that students will still be able to access the pedway,” Beard said. “There could be some shutdowns, but we will work as hard as we can to make sure that those are not during (peak times).”
No matter what time of year the disruptions occur, however, there are still several issues that could arise from the project, which include access for maintenance staff and students with limited mobility.
When Gilson was asked about the plan for dealing with problems maintenance staff may face in bringing equipment to and from the Robbins building, he said there were “no definitive decisions” made so far, but added that every angle is being considered to make sure that the facilities aren’t impacted by pedway closures.
For students like Kyle Mair, a wheelchair user who goes to MacEwan, not having access to the pedway offers a particularly tricky problem.
“If even one pedway is closed, it does inconvenience me,” Mair said over email. “Being a wheelchair user, I have a standard route in mind, so I would have to change the route I usually take. It could make me late for my class, or if a certain pedway is closed it could force me either to go outside to cross into the next building or use the underground parking and elevators to get around.”
In Mair’s eyes, it’s especially important to show that, in cases surrounding campus construction, a level of forethought has been shown for the needs of all students.
“It is not easy getting around in a wheelchair,” Mair said. “Sometimes wheelchair users have a hard time getting out of their comfort zone and into a university, so the least anyone could do is show they are welcomed and thought of.”
“I would hope there would be some kind of alternative for wheelchair users,” he added.
When discussing what kind of plans are in place to provide suitable solutions for wheelchair users during the time of disruptions, Beard had this to say over email: “These conversations are ongoing and our construction team is working hard to ensure there are alternatives, even if there are potential closures.” She did not specify what these planned alternatives might be.
For now, Mair hopes that there will be an adequate plan for wheelchair access if the pedway is shut down.
“I understand some places were built without access for all in mind,” he said, “but in a school environment particularly, I would hope they would try to accommodate for all their students, and all walks of life.”
Cover photo by Matthew Jacula.