Like most members of the UTM community, professor Lee Bailey was shocked to discover one morning that reconstruction had begun on UTM’s oldest academic structure, the fabled North Building.

“I’d made a few trips to the North Building just because I was interested in seeing the big toys,” said Bailey. “They seemed to be working gradually. The building was still standing on Thursday. I worked at home on Friday. When I came in on Saturday, the whole west end was gone.”

Phase A of the demolition of the North Building had been executed.

The UTM community has grown in ways no one had envisaged, and the dire need for space at UTM has grown stronger over the past decade.

The North Building, formerly a building of 9,459 gross square metres, was built in 1967. It was a temporary measure, meant to serve UTM (then called Erindale College) only for the next four years. It was intended that the building be demolished after the William G. Davis building (then the South Building) opened in 1971. Yet it is still standing, and heavily used for classes—even though it doesn’t meet today’s standards for academic space as outlined by the Council of Ontario Universities.

UTM has seen a 77% increase in space in the past decade in the form of classrooms, labs, offices, and residences, but even this hasn’t kept up with our enrolment growth. Space at UTM is still in extremely high demand.

With the growth in student enrolment and the general need for academic space, UTM has not been able to afford making the North Building inactive for construction before now. Thirty percent of UTM classes were taught in the North Building until the Instructional Centre opened, revealed Paul Donoghue, UTM’s chief administrative officer.

Undergraduate enrolment is expected to increase by about 2,000 full-time students between now and the 2015/16 year, and graduate enrolment by more than 80. In the 2011/12 year, the campus was at around 80% of the Council of Ontario Universities space standards, and with the expected increases in enrolment, that number will drop even further.

“Rebuilding became a very important priority for us,” said Donoghue. “It was discussed widely within the context of the Master Plan that we redid in 2011, and what we were able to do was to obtain some money from the government of Ontario to help us with the reconstruction of two projects that don’t seem to be related—but they are.”

One is the North Building Phase A, and the other is a four-year program to rebuild all of the science teaching labs in the Davis Building. Both projects address the dire need for technology and science space.

When the Health Science Complex opened, it provided space for the new Mississauga Academy of Medicine and the departments of biomedical communication and forensic science.

Two years ago, to address the lack of wet lab space, UTM relocated the psychology department’s AWB research labs from the Davis Building teaching block to the Academic Annex, as a temporary location. New modern labs are a part of the North Building Phase A project. In the meantime, the Davis Building teaching block is being renovated floor by floor. By 2016, all the floors will have been renovated into modern labs, with the second, third, and fourth floors reserved for teaching and the first floor for research.

“So it’s really trying to rationalize the amount of space that we have, build as much as we possibly can, because we’re under huge pressures for space and we’d like to get it done as quickly as we possibly can,” said Donoghue.

The North Building was one of five capital projects UTM identified in 2008 to be submitted for approval to the provincial government, but the request was unsuccessful until Phase A was resubmitted in 2011.

As outlined in the 2011 Campus Master Plan, the North Building Reconstruction will take place in three phases, the first of which is now underway. Phase A will address a serious space shortage, meet the space standards of the other buildings on campus, and transform the southern portion of the two-storey North Building into a modern four-storey academic facility.

The total estimated cost for Phase A is $56 million. The government of Ontario will fund $35 million of it, $0.9 million will come from UTM’s Graduate Expansion Capital Fund, $3.1 million will come from UTM’s one-time capital reserves, and $17 million will be acquired through borrowing.

The new facility will total 10,440 gross square metres and will accommodate rehearsal studios for the department of English and drama, as well as food services, classrooms, and study space. The upper levels will accommodate research and teaching labs for the departments of psychology and MCS and faculty offices for multiple departments. Phase A will be completed by August 2014.