A Student Faubourg: Grand Opening 201_?
Former Student Union President Confirms Site of Student Union Building
The Concordia Student Union Building, should students approve the proposed fee levy this week, will be housed in the Faubourg building at the corner of Guy Street and Ste. Catherine Street West.
In September, outgoing CSU President Prince Ralph Osei confirmed with The Link that the shopping mall was the site for the proposed student centre building. This fact has been confirmed with five other officials close to the project.
Speaking to students on Wednesday at a lecture by David Bernans in Concordia’s Hall building, councillor Lex Gill revealed that she had been informed of the selection of the Faubourg. The revelation came during a question and answer period following Bernans’ speech.
Gonzalo Nieto, a student who is running one of the unofficial No to the Student Centre campaigns, repeated the admission to the audience at a Cinema Politica screening on Thursday.
“Honestly, no contract has been signed,” said CSU VP External & Projects Adrien Severyns about the Faubourg. “There are still a few options on the table.”
The student union VP reiterated his concern, voiced last week in The Link that revealing the location of the student union building could lead to an increase in the price of the building. Any further increase could make the building unaffordable to students.
Real estate professionals contacted about Severyns’ concern disputed his assertion, stating that the risk of this happening was low. The revealing of the building location to large groups of students over the course of the last week also makes the objection to revealing the location unfounded.
This is not the first time that the CSU has spoken about purchasing the Faubourg. In 2006, CSU VP Campus Relations Taylor Noakes resigned from the Experience slate in September and disclosed the executive’s hidden history. Along with confirming that Concordia
University had interfered in that year’s CSU election, Noakes told The Link that the university was pressuring the CSU to buy the Faubourg as a student union building.
Noakes said that Jonathan Wener, a former CSU executive who is head of Canderel Realty and a member of Concordia’s Board of Governors, was one of the main proponents of the acquisition.
“[Jonathan Wener] was very insistent that we jump on this project immediately. We received tours of the [Faubourg], the university brought us to a lot of their bullshit functions, it was all, I wouldn’t say a ruse, but you know, ‘Hey guys, you really want to get in on this, and remember if you do get on board, if you do play with the admin, you get to come to all our fancy functions, you get to talk to people, make connections’ … and it’s all bullshit. Categorically, undeniably, nonsense,” Noakes told The Link at the time.
A month after Noakes’ defection, CSU President Khaleed Juma told Concordia’s Board of Governors that his administration could not support a student union building in the Faubourg.
“The CSU would not have the mandate to agree to a building that does not predominantly give space to students, not yet one that does not belong to the students,” Juma said in October 2006. “A student centre is a 20-year commitment that student representatives cannot walk into lightly. Whilst the Faubourg project may not be ideal, students are still committed to working towards a student centre.”
In March 2009, students rejected a fee levy of $2.50 to purchase a student union building, now revealed to have been the Faubourg. That referendum was rejected by 72 per cent of students.
Over the past week, students have shared many of the concerns that Juma raised. With students like Nieto running campaigns against the Faubourg, the student union building referendum will face a tough test.
“I was outraged at the fact that they refused to disclose the location before the referendum,” said Nieto. “Especially since there is a past of trying to get this in the Faubourg and students have always shot it down.”
Nieto said that the $50 million, 40-year project could do more to separate students from Concordia than unite them.
“Where clubs and the CSU are now is a high traffic area,” said Nieto. “Things are integrated right now in the Hall building. This seems like an attempt to separate students from academia.”
Under the agreement that governs the proposed student union building, students would share space in the building with Concordia’s administration and with retailers.
“Were we to purchase the Faubourg, I would feel that it would be like purchasing a shopping mall due to all the leases that exist in the building,” said Nieto.
Currently, 39 retailers operate out of the Faubourg. Some, like the Style Exchange location on Ste. Catherine Street West, signed new multiyear leases recently.
With students to vote on the student union building from Nov. 23 to 25, questions about most aspects of the building remain unanswered.
—with files from Giuseppe Valiante
This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 15, published November 23, 2010.