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Glacier, Olympus and Varsity Courts demolitions under consideration

By Matty Hume, September 7 2018 —

The University of Calgary Board of Governors (BOG) is considering demolishing multiple residence buildings and converting the Hotel Alma into student residence space.

In addition to potentially demolishing the existing Glacier and Olympus residence buildings, the Varsity Courts family housing units in University Heights may also face demolition. The decisions would come as part of the U of C’s Residence Strategy.

Hotel Alma opened its doors as a hotel with 96 rooms and suites in 2009. It is a frequent centre for university conferences as well as a place to host external university guests directly on campus. Both the Glacier and Olympus residence halls house over 100 undergraduate students in some of the largest studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and four-bedroom apartments at the U of C. Varsity Courts contains around 250 unfurnished townhouses as part of the university’s family housing for students, staff, researchers and visiting scholars.

“Varsity Courts, which is family housing and has been for the past 50 years or so, which is just on the far end of campus [is] being removed as University District expands,” Frank Finley, the student representative on BOG, said during the July 4 Students’ Legislative Council meeting. “Vacancy rates are higher and higher through the years, as there’s been less and less demand.”

Considering the hundreds of present and future community members that are affected by the Residence Strategy, the potential shift in the university’s residence strategy would be a significant step in altering the housing landscape at the U of C, a dominantly commuter-based campus. BOG and Residence Services are undergoing various consultations before any decisions are made.

Housing at the U of C has for many years been a particularly key municipal issue, due to Calgary’s previously complex process of approving secondary suites —  self-contained basement or backyard living spaces attached to existing properties. City Council approved amendments to the Land Use Bylaw this past March, which now allows secondary suites as discretionary use, a change that provides easier access for students to safe and affordable housing off-campus.

“The University of Calgary is updating its Residence Strategy, which was last completed/prepared in 2012. We have been consulting with various stakeholders in the campus community,” said Shane Royal, director of the U of C’s ancillary services, in a statement to the Gauntlet. “At this stage we will only be discussing three strategic areas under consideration and they consist of the demolition of Glacier/Olympus (226 units), conversion of Hotel Alma to a residence building, and the future of Varsity Courts (Family Housing). No decisions are being made at this time. Recommendations will go to the Board in October.”

The U of C BOG will convene for a retreat and special meeting on Sept. 15.

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