This year, 85 students and two floor fellows will call a building named Varcity515 home following McGill’s decision to rent two floors of this furnished student-housing complex to accommodate an excess number of students requiring places in residence.
According to Interim Director of Residences and Student Housing, Janice Johnson, it is difficult to predict exactly how many students are going to require accommodations at McGill each year. One per cent more or fewer students than anticipated could cause a difference of 50 to 60 students.
Due to the last-minute nature of its opening, Varcity515 was not on the housing survey completed by all first years who apply for residence in the spring. When this year’s residence lottery was completed last June, the number of incoming students requiring accommodations exceeded the number that McGill’s residences could hold. This excess was partially due to Douglas Hall being closed for renovations this year, as the residence usually accommodates 179 students.
“It’s a bit of a gamble every year to make sure that we stay full,” Johnson said. “We have a responsibility to stay full because if we don’t raise our revenues to cover the expenses each year then we have to raise the prices for our students next year.”
Normally, all students who do not immediately receive a residence placement are assigned a temporary room—often in living rooms at Solin Hall or in Royal Victoria College. This year, students placed on the top of the temporary residence list were assigned to Varcity515.
Located at 515 Saint-Catherine Street, Varcity515 is within easy walking distance of campus. As Johnson pointed out, this is not the first time that the building has been used as a McGill residence.
“Five years ago, when Varcity515 first opened, McGill was in a similar situation and therefore initiated an arrangement with them,” Johnson said. “Since McGill’s relationship in the past with Varcity515 had been a positive experience, this year when McGill needed more beds, Varcity515 was readily contacted.”
Only 60 to 70 extra beds were needed to house this year’s students, but two whole floors of the building have been rented. Although this means a few empty spaces, Johnson says it was done to ensure a solid residence community experience. Each apartment has three to five bedrooms, one of which is a room that has no outward-facing windows, only a window facing the interior of the apartment. The rent is $1,250 per month for regular rooms—approximately the same amount that students pay to live in McGill’s hotel-style residences like New Residence Hall. Rooms that lack an exterior window in Varcity515 cost $950-$1,000. Students pay their rent in a nine-month lease.
All Varcity515 students have a mandatory commuter meal plan, which is a $300 plan designed for students, professors, and staff members who occasionally purchase food on campus. Each four- or five-bedroom apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen, complete with a dishwasher as well as utensils such as pots, pans, and cutlery. The cafeterias at Carrefour Sherbrooke and Royal Victoria College are just two blocks away from the building.
According to Johnson, McGill does not currently have any plans to occupy Varcity515 in future years.
She added that its residents want to have their own residence council instead of being aligned with Carrefour Sherbrooke’s council as originally planned.
“Feedback from these councils is important for us to better the experience,” Senior Director of Student Housing and Hospitality Services, Mathieu Laperle, said.
Although most students at Varcity515 only arrived in their residence two weeks ago, some, like Kirsten Neprily, U0 Arts, say the building already feels like home.
“Everyone is so happy to be here,” Neprily said. “We cook together, shop together, party together. I honestly don’t wish that anything was different.”