President of the Guelph Campus Co-op board of directors Kevin Bowman unveils the cornerstone of a new 72-bed eco-friendly housing unit on College Avenue West. Photos by Martin Schwalbe

When the Guelph Campus Co-op unveiled the cornerstone to its new housing complex June 14, manager of housing and member relations Tom Klein Beernink coined the line: “This is the house that co-operation built.”

He was referring to the 100 years that the co-op has been part of the University of Guelph campus and the 14 years that it took to move the sustainable housing complex from concept to construction. The centrepiece of its centennial celebration, the $5-million Campus Co-op Commons is located behind the co-op office on College Avenue West. The apartment building will house 72 students in 18 rental units and is scheduled for completion by January 2014.

The Campus Co-op continued its anniversary celebration during Alumni Weekend with a display table that shared photos and memorabilia with returning alumni and invited them to contribute their personal memories of the co-op. Highlights included photos of one of the co-op’s first projects – building an outdoor skating rink on what is now Johnston Green, spreading the smell of cinnamon around campus when it ran the Massey Hall coffee shop, and selling books to thousands of Guelph students over the years.

From the skating rink to today’s housing complex, the Guelph Campus Co-op remains committed to building by students for students, said Klein Beernink.

The new apartment complex was designed by Guelph-based Grinham Architects and incorporates several environmental design features, including a rainwater collection system, passive solar design and in-floor radiant heat. The complex will also provide one fully accessible unit made possible by funding through the Central Student Association’s (CSA), affordable housing initiative.

Sustainability – related to both the environment and the Guelph community – were central to the comments made by guests at the cornerstone event.

Guelph MP Frank Valeriote said he appreciates the green technology but was feeling sentimental about the 25 years he spent as lawyer for the Guelph Campus Co-op before he entered politics. MPP and Ontario education minister Liz Sandals recalled her personal experience buying books from the co-op when she was a U of G student and later ordering books for courses she taught on campus. And mayor Karen Farbridge drew those comments together by talking about the importance of co-operatives in the city’s history.

Guelph’s first co-operative was a bakery established in 1904, she said, but the OAC Students’ Co-operative Association established in 1913 was the city’s first co-operative registered under provincial legislation. “The Campus Co-op has a remarkable history within the city’s co-operative history.”

The OAC association was started by students who came to campus with experience from the agricultural co-operative movement in rural Canada. The group changed its name in 1962 to the Guelph Campus Co-operative and is the oldest continuing student co-operative in Canada.

U of G president Alastair Summerlee congratulated the Campus Co-op on 100 years of achievement and its contributions to the University’s legacy within the Guelph community. “Laying this cornerstone on a new sustainable housing project is evidence that the Guelph Campus Co-op will continue to be an important part of our campus and our community.”

The cornerstone itself was unveiled by the co-op’s board president and U of G student Kevin Bowman. Tyler Valiquette, CSA local affairs commissioner, congratulated the co-op for continuing its efforts to provide affordable green housing units for students.

Only a few feet away from the new apartment complex is a stone house renovated by Guelph Campus Co-op in 2007 with the same sustainable mindset. Built with CSA support, that 12-person eco-friendly house maximizes solar heating, collects rainwater and recycles grey water. It is also fully accessible to students who use a wheelchair or have visual or hearing impairments.

For more information about its history and 100th-anniversary celebrations, visit the Guelph Campus-Co-op website at

From left: Karen Farbridge, Kevin Bowman, Tom Klein Beernink, Frank Valeriote, Liz Sandals and Alastair Summerlee.