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Ryerson partners with private developer to build new student residence

Renderings for Ryerson's new student residence building

Handout photo/Handout photo

Ryerson University is partnering with a private developer to build a residence a five-minute walk from its downtown campus, bolstering its housing capacity.

The 20-plus-story residence, just south of Jarvis Street and Dundas Street East where a parking lot stands now, will have space for at least 530 students, said vice president of administration and finance Julia Hanigsberg. Construction is slated to begin in 2014 and the residence is expected to open in September 2016.

Ryerson is ultimately aiming to increase its residence capacity by 2,000 spots by 2020, meaning the university will likely need to build at least two more buildings. For years, faced with growing waiting lists, the university has been trying to house more students. Currently it has only 850 residence spots and a student population of 28,000.

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Ryerson would like student housing north of the campus as well, close to where the university is working with Loblaw Companies Ltd. to redevelop part of Maple Leaf Gardens into a student athletic facility, Ms. Hanigsberg said.

With major projects including the one at the Gardens and the development of a Student Learning Centre on Yonge Street, Ryerson had to find an affordable way to build the residence it badly needed.

Ryerson is partnering with MPI group, which will cover the construction and development costs of the building, which will be designed by IBI Group Architects. The university will provide the student tenants and the residence life services while MPI is in charge of maintenance, Ms. Hanigsberg said.

"The bottom line is that all the financial risk is taken on by the private developer," she said. "The economics of that works for them because our demand is so high... we have so many more students who need spots than we could possibly fill."

Typically, a university would take on the construction and development itself.

"This sort of private developer deal around student housing is pretty new in Canada," Ms. Hanigsberg said. "We wanted to make sure to get it right. This could be a template for future deals as well."

The design and plans for the building, which will be taller than 20 stories, haven't been finalized but it's expected to include a two-storey podium with retail and other services and a mix of apartment-style dorms. They'll range from one to four bedrooms.

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The space still needs to go through rezoning with the city, said Ms. Hanigsberg, which is why the exact plans aren't known yet.

Rental costs will likely be more than Ryerson's other buildings but prices will have to be competitive in the area, meaning rent will be about $1,000 per month, Ms. Hanigsberg said.

She said other developers are building condominiums nearby. It means that by the time students move in to the area, which has a run-down reputation, it will have improved, she said.

"We're really confident that we're not only going to be part of rejuvenation at that part of town, but also that it's being rejuvenated as we speak."

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