If Canada’s Harper government is successful in reaching its goal of attracting 450,000 international students and researchers to its universities by 2022, then student housing is set to become a major issue. As it is, international student enrollment has increased in the city of Montreal, Quebec, despite grim predictions. Home to four large universities including Université de Montréal, Université de Québec à Montréal, Concordia University and McGill University, as well as a number of Cegeps and Colleges, the percentage of post-secondary students is high.
It should come as no surprise that universities have looked towards other ways of expanding their student residences. Rather than turning to new construction, many schools have sought to repurpose buildings, particularly hotels. Architects have quickly taken note that the general layout of a hotel room is quite similar to a standard dorm room. Most rooms are double occupancy with a shared bathroom, and contain laundry facilities, fitness centers and lobbies which could easily be reconfigured to meet current needs.
McGill University has converted three hotels into student residences thus far, adding to its seven other student residences. New Residence Hall, Le Carrefour Sherbrooke and La Citadelle are all steps away from the downtown core and the campus itself. Each housing more than 250 students, many of the city’s and university’s amenities are within their reach.
Developers and real estate investors have also begun to move into this under-tapped Montreal market. Campus Crest Communities, a U.S developer owning eighty-four hotel-to-residence conversion properties, and Beaumont Partners, a European firm, have already bought two of Montreal’s hotels. The Delta Hotel, a staple building located at the edge of Old Montreal that boasts a well-known top floor revolving restaurant, and the province of Québec’s largest Holiday Inn located in the heart of downtown Montreal are to be converted into private student residences for the upcoming 2014 to 2015 school year.
For investors, location location location is as important as ever. The closer a hotel is to the university, the more profitable the building will become, and the more useful it is to incoming students. While The Delta will eventually boast a library, technology center, and gym, there is no word yet on the types of amenities the Holiday Inn will procure.
A great task in these refurbishment projects is offering adequate communal support within these building frames. Existing common spaces in hotel conversions are not all that welcoming. As such, peer support for incoming students arriving from a variety of different backgrounds needs to be at an all-time high.
Is this building design inviting for international students in regards to community building? Or does a greater effort need to be made in creating more inviting common areas and gathering spaces?
Credits: Images by Caitlin Dixon. Data linked to sources.