The University District
For much of Queen’s history, student housing wasn’t part of the campus plan. Male students lived in boarding houses on the edge of campus, and female students lived in residence buildings such as Ban Righ Hall, built in 1926.
In the 1960s, things changed. Enrolment grew towards 10,000 students and the university adopted a policy of providing a campus bed for every first-year student. To honour this, new residences such as Victoria Hall were built, along with specialty residences for married and international students were built.
The old boarding houses disappeared and upper-year students began living in rented apartments. Sydenham Ward, to the west of campus, became popular. It was close to campus and just a short walk from the amenities of Kingston’s downtown. But the evolving student identity of the neighbourhood began to put pressure on its established residential character; population density increased as residential homes were converted into four- and five-bedroom student homes.
By the 1980s, students in Sydenham Ward became the ascendant population and the area had become known as ‘the ghetto’. In response to student behaviour and property-related issues, local citizens formed advocacy groups that focused on municipal by-law enforcement, better policing and more liaison with the university.
As the new century dawned, joint AMS-City committees were struck to support positive relations between students and local residents. The AMS initiated a Golden Cockroach Award for negligent landlords, later joined by a Key to the Village Award for diligent landlords. In 1994, the AMS created a Municipal Affairs Commission, that two years later, urged students to stop using the term ghetto.
In 1998, the AMS voted to rename the area the “university village.” It also became more active in the area’s upkeep, creating programs for garbage cleanup, home maintenance and better landlord-student relations.
In 2015, the city officially named the area the “University District,” changing street signs to reflect the new name.
Pictured above: students in what is now called the University District in 1982