Spaced out?

Closure of Garbonzo’s and Starbucks sparks questions about campus development

Earlier this year, Garbonzo’s Pizza Pub and Starbucks, located in the AnX building on the University of Winnipeg (U of W) campus, closed their doors. No announcement or formal statement was provided, but this sudden closure has raised questions about how the university allocates space and deals with on-campus businesses.

The AnX building opened in 2011 and had housed Garbonzo’s and Starbucks since 2012. The building is also home to the U of W Bookstore, the Balmoral Transit Terminal and classrooms.

Many students are concerned with the closure of these popular restaurants.

“I find retail outlets for food and drink missing on campus now that Starbucks has been shut down,” Breanna Belisle, a student in the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice program, says. She is also the president of the Criminal Justice Students’ Association.

According to the U of W website, on-campus dining options include Tony’s, dash cafe, Elements, The MALECÓN, Pangea’s Kitchen (all run by Diversity Foods) and Stella’s Café & Bakery. Many of these restaurants, however, are closed in the evening and on weekends.

In terms of allocating the space in the AnX or other areas on campus, Belisle thinks there should be more transparency.

“I would like to see secure study spaces, more commercial food choices, but also space for student groups,” she says.

The current U of W Capital Projects and Renovations Policy states that “internal stakeholders (users and maintainers) will be appropriately consulted throughout the project” and any project costing over $250,000 will require the development of a “formal business case” and a “social and environmental sustainability impact report.”

The U of W campus has been rapidly expanding and changing in recent years with the opening of Downtown Commons in 2016, Leatherdale Hall in 2017 and Merchants Corner in 2018.

Since 2005, there has been an increase in the campus’ footprint by more than 30 per cent, which is approximately double the rate of increase for enrollment.

The organization responsible for on-campus development is the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC), which is “guided by the four pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, economic and cultural,” according to their website.

Despite the recent development projects, Belisle says some students still feel there is a lack of study spaces, especially where “students can feel safe and not vulnerable.”

During the recent State of the University Address by president and vice-chancellor Dr. Annette Trimbee, there was no mention of the university’s plans for the AnX building or the closure of Garbonzo’s or Starbucks.

Published in Volume 74, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 10, 2019)

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