Birch Renovations to be Completed Late October or Early November

Plans for the renovated space include recreation and social justice rooms

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Exterior of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Surrey campus Birch Building in July 2016. (Alyssa Laube)

KPU Surrey’s Birch building is currently being renovated in order to provide more space for students on-campus, but the project hasn’t been without speed bumps. The Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group was initially displeased that they weren’t given any space in the new Birch plans, and now the renovations have been pushed back from Sept. 1 to late October or early November.

With luck, the renovated building will be complete before Halloween, featuring a recreation room, multipurpose room, and social justice space, among other improvements. The cafeteria and kitchen will stay where they are, although the location of the seating will change.

Renovations Running Long

Due to a delay with attaining the necessary permits, Birch will remain under renovation for a month longer than anticipated.

Instead of being able to use a single permit to renovate both sides of the building, the Kwantlen Student Association had to get two from the City of Surrey, according to Vice-President Services Tanvir Singh.

KPU’s manager of media and communications, Corry Anderson-Fennell, says that the separate permits were requested by the city because of “the possibility of two different occupancy dates for each side” of Birch. To elaborate, the kitchen, cafeteria, and its seating are all under KPU control, whereas the rest is managed by the KSA.

“On the KPU side, a permit has been issued and move-in is expected the week of Oct. 24,” says Anderson-Fennell, in an email Sept. 30.

KSA renovations are set to be completed by early November at the latest, as predicted by Singh.

“Our previous timeline of early September was quite an aggressive timeline. That was before we took a look at what the permits would look like, so now end of October is more realistic,” he says.

The City of Surrey’s website states that there are no guaranteed timelines for building permits. Instead, they depend “on the completeness of the application, how quickly the City’s comments are responded to, volume of applications to be reviewed by each review group, etc.”

The KSA’s Office Location

While it’s true that the KSA’s name will be attached to a great deal of space in Birch, none of the rooms will replace their current office space in Cedar. The Association is in charge of “general upkeep” of all non-cafeteria space in the building, including duties such as booking rooms. However, all of it will be used for the benefit of students rather than exclusively KSA staff.

KPIRG’s Quest for Space

Before and during the beginning of the Birch renovations, KPIRG was running a campaign to get a permanent office of its own. When the renovations began, KPIRG staff had to leave their existing office, which they shared with Pride Kwantlen in the former social justice space. Without a room given to them in the renovated plans, KPIRG found themselves unable to find a place to securely store their documents and conduct their business.

“KPIRG is, of course, disappointed and frustrated that we did not get space in Birch. The plight of KPIRG is not unknown on campus, especially as our quest for space has remained unanswered for three years,” says Kimberley McMartin, board organizer for KPIRG.

KPIRG has since opted to lease off-campus office space, a move which McMartin calls “another blow” to the group. Speaking more optimistically, she adds that “the off-campus, temporary office has helped to alleviate some of the problems we have incurred, though having an off-campus office is not without its obstacles.”

When told about KPIRG’s decision to lease off-campus, Singh was shocked, but said that the KSA will contact the staff to discuss it.

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