City will give McMaster downtown land for a new campus

The city is offering up free land to McMaster University so it can build a new multi-million-dollar campus downtown.
McMaster is building an $84-million downtown health campus at Main and Bay. The city voted Thursday to give the university land for another 70,000-square-foot building downtown. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city is providing free land to McMaster University so it can build a new multi-million-dollar campus downtown.

City councillors voted Thursday to give 0.8 to 1.6 hectares of land (two to four acres) to the university so it can build a 150,000-square foot facility. McMaster will take that commitment and apply for a provincial grant to cover the lion’s share of the project, which could cost as much as $140 million.

City staff suggest offering parking lots at 76 John St. N, 14 Vine St. or a rectangle of space near city hall. McMaster and the city will work together to nail down a site. Some councillors on Thursday spoke against using the land near city hall.

The building will bring 1,075 students downtown to start, as well as 45 faculty and 40 staff. McMaster estimates it’ll create 450 construction jobs.

Councillors were hesitant about the project when they first heard of it in August, citing a lack of information. But they warmed to it on Thursday.

“You really don’t need a degree from McMaster or anywhere else to understand that students in our community are a driving force,” said Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5.

The land grant won't require a cash donation from the city. The value of the land donated will be between $1.8 and $3.2 million.

Councillors need to ratify the vote at a council meeting on Sept. 10. McMaster has until Sept. 26 to apply for the provincial grant.

The city and McMaster will also work together to see if it can add some retail or commercial space to the building to generate more taxes for the city.

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