Queen’s University Campus Master Plan wins CIP Award

August 5, 2015

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Last month, the Queen’s University Campus Master Plan was awarded the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) Award of Excellence in Urban Design. The project team included Urban Strategies, Rickes Associates, Stantec, Betty Dion Associates Ltd., and Willowbank. According to CIP’s press release:

The “Queen’s University Campus Master Plan is a thoughtful framework to guide the physical evolution of the university in a coordinated and strategic manner. The plan is respectful of the campus’ heritage, is considerate of the surrounding communities and aligns with the city’s goals for the area. It will connect the Main and West campuses through enhanced streetscape and make them equivalent in amenities, but not identical in design.

This Plan is progressive in that it recognizes the changing needs of teaching facilities and seeks to utilize existing space better and identify where new space can be created when necessary. Additionally, public engagement was an integral part of this undertaking. Developed by Urban Strategies, the plan is an impressive and professional quality Campus Master Plan that is user friendly with beautiful and high quality imaginary and modelling. The plan included Queen’s Climate Action Plan and Accessibility Guidelines, as well as detailed site specific design solutions, building condition mapping, an implementation manual, and a funding model to achieve its goals within its horizon.”

View the campus master plan online. Or read more about the award-winning project below.

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Queen’s University is one of Canada’s oldest universities – closely integrated within its host community on a number of separate campuses. Building on its remarkable legacy and history, Queen’s sought to reevaluate its future and the changing the nature of teaching and learning spaces on campus to better support its academic mission and campus life.

Within this context of renewal and change, the Campus Master Plan establishes a framework for change that will guide how Queen’s physically evolves over the next 10 to 15 years to accommodate the University’s evolving programs and activities. The Campus Master Plan does not pre-suppose growth; rather it illustrates how Queen’s lands can evolve in a coordinated manner, resulting from strategic planning decisions. The Campus Master Plan provides guidance regarding the evolution and management of the University’s physical assets while supporting its academic mission. It promotes renewal by aligning required investment with desired campus building objectives. The vision and framework align the campus with the continued evolution of the University’s physical, social and financial contexts.

The emerging directions for the Campus Master Plan include the identification of places for growth beyond the Main Campus and the provision of a development framework to shape this growth in a way that supports the historic character of the campuses, yet provides the right setting for contemporary academic development. Ensuring that campus locations are connected and provide an equivalent, but not identical, quality of experience is also a key objective.

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The Campus Master Plan served as an opportunity for the University to strategically and comprehensively assess its goals and objectives for the future evolution of its campus. The vision and recommendations contained in the plan are meant to ensure that the University physically evolves in response to contemporary learning, research, and social needs, and that its campus continues to be an exceptional place for students, faculty, staff and Kingston neighbours. In this time of limited resources, future investments must be carefully considered to ensure the greatest return on investment while simultaneously addressing contemporary needs and ensuring flexibility for the future.

In responding to these challenges and opportunities, the CMP was intended to achieve five key goals:

1) Ensure Capacity for Growth: Identify locations for appropriate development in light of the capacity constraints on the Main campus, and determine the type of development that is appropriate for each site.

2) Define Priorities for Renewal: The renewal of the Queen’s campus must be based on deferred maintenance needs, current facility conditions and future needs, with the CMP helping to prioritize and coordinate these investments in the short and long-term.

3) Protect Heritage Resources: Preserve the University’s historic fabric and landscapes, and identify key places that require special consideration to help support a sense of place.

4) Align Development with Landscape and Infrastructure Investment: Enhance the public realm through investments in streetscapes, public art, landscapes, and other infrastructure improvements.

5) Build a Remarkable Campus: Continue to protect what is cherished while ensuring that new facilities contribute to the University’s competitive position by adhering to urban design guidelines and policies that secure high quality buildings and public spaces.


The Campus Master Plan identifies a long-term framework for growth that can slowly be achieved over many decades. To support the implementation process, the Campus Master Plan provides thorough direction for its near-term implementation, demonstrating how projects and initiatives may be achieved to support campus planning goals. As part of the implementation strategy, the Plan identifies a number of landscape, mobility and infrastructure projects that will enhance campus movement and sustainability. It also provides a 3D rendering of a Near-Term Plan, illustrating one potential evolution of the campus. Further recommendations relating to the project phasing, approval and funding are also provided, including the potential integration of the Master Plan into Queen’s Major Capital Project Approvals Process.

The CMP outlines a series of general design guidelines for new developments on campus. The intent of these guidelines is to ensure the creation of high quality, durable buildings and landscaping that respond to the campus setting and reinforce a cohesive pattern of campus growth. A range of site-specific directions and detailed development patterns are also provided through nine Precinct Plans. The Precinct Plans provide a convenient and simplified framework in which to plan and evaluate campus projects, and effectively consolidate the opportunities and requirements for campus evolution for each renewal and development site on a place-by-place basis. The Precinct Plans essentially serve as a detailed implementation manual for University officials to consider when determining the type of development that should occur.

The Campus Master Plan was approved by the Queen’s University Board of Trustees on March 7, 2014, officially bringing the long-term vision and development framework into effect.



Engagement with the greater Queen’s community was an integral part of this undertaking, taking place throughout the project and on multiple channels. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Kingston community all had strong, frequently opposing views about the present and future role of Queen’s in the community. In recent years, town-gown relationships have been strained, due in particular to problematic student behaviour during homecoming weekend, real estate values and student housing maintenance issues. This made the communications and engagement piece a very important part of the project.

FACE TO FACE ENGAGEMENT: The Consultant Team held regular meetings with an Advisory Committee and also conducted an initial series of stakeholder interviews with Queen’s University staff, faculty and students, as well as Kingston residents, organizations, and City staff in order to understand participant’s assessments of the campus today, and their long-term vision for its future. Over 60 individuals were interviewed, each providing their preliminary input on the Queen’s Campus – perceived strengths, weaknesses, and their individual aspirations for its future growth and development.

CONTINUAL COMMUNICATION: Urban Strategies worked hand in hand with the Queen’s communications staff to develop a comprehensive strategy – with a weekly schedule of communications activity across all channels – that complemented the project timeline. Even during “quiet” periods when Urban Strategies was not on campus holding public events, the momentum was maintained via regular blog posts (frequently by stakeholders invited to be “guest bloggers”), stories in the Queen’s and Kingston media publications and television broadcasts, short videos and social media polls.

DIRECT AND TRANSPARENT DIALOGUE: The online engagement program provided an additional forum for community input. The University hosted a central website with access to study information and materials, while the Consultant Team managed a QUCampus Plan project blog, Twitter account and Facebook page to share information, gather input, and host an ongoing dialogue about the physical campus and Queen’s life. Together, the client and consultant team developed a distinct project brand identity (clearly separate from the Queen’s brand) in order to identify the blog, Twitter and Facebook pages as consultant-managed and transparent, with a limited lifespan. This division allowed Urban Strategies’ project manager to “speak in his own voice” and engage commenters in a real online conversation directly and immediately, removing the potential burden of Queen’s communications or legal departments having to necessarily craft “official” responses.

TARGETING INFLUENTIAL STAKEHOLDERS TO MAXIMIZE ONLINE SPACES: Queen’s alumni are arguably one of the most connected and involved alumni groups in Canada, with dozens of active chapters worldwide, regular events, and a vast social media presence. The team was able to tap into these interested and influential communities — where they already meet online — via a targeted Twitter and Facebook campaign. The consultant team developed a hashtag for the project [#planyourcampus] that allowed the project manager to monitor, reply and report back on Twitter activity. This social media strategy allowed the team to reach hundreds of people, and direct them to the project blog, which served as a hub for dialogue and debate. The project blog was continually updated with presentations, articles and open house materials to allow remote interested parties to view and provide thoughtful comment on their own time. This was a highly successful strategy for Queen’s, given the disbursed, yet engaged nature of its particular community.

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One of the Campus Master Plan’s guiding principles aims to foster a more sustainable and healthy campus. The Plan sets out to reduce the University’s impact on the environment through good planning, stewardship and development practices. The Master Plan articulates a Sustainability Vision for the campus, which advocates for a holistic and resilient approach to campus planning, one that considers the environmental implications of all campus development. The multi-faceted sustainability strategy is premised on the creation of an integrated and diverse campus supported by a balanced transportation system that prioritizes walking, cycling and transit use. The Plan emphasizes connectivity across the campuses, and calls for investments in active transportation infrastructure, including cycling routes and pedestrian pathways. A vibrant open space network is also envisioned to support a healthy ecosystem, biodiversity and a dense tree canopy. The Campus Master Plan also provides detailed building design guidelines that are intended to support quality construction, achieve building performance standards, and promote green building design and technology for new and renewed development.

The Campus Master Plan is also aligned with several sustainability initiatives pioneered by the University, including the Climate Action Plan, which strives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and with its Sustainability Strategic Framework, which sets out in pursuit of sustainability and performance upgrades. Coordination of the Master Plan with these existing initiatives will ensure that the campus develops in a manner that supports the natural environment and strengthens the long-term resilience of the University community.