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Waterloo Co-operative Residence Incorporated
Waterloo Co-operative Residence Incorporated, also known as WCRI, is a non-profit student housing co-operative located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It is owned by its residents, who are mostly students at the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, or Conestoga College. The co-op can accomodate over 900 residents in its dormitories and apartments, making it the second-largest organization of its kind in North America. It is a founding member of the Ontario Student Co-operative Association , which is an associate member of the North American Students of Cooperation.
Properties and accomodation
WCRI is orgnized into seven semi-autonomous divisions; three are dormitories and four are apartment buildings. The dormitory divisions are Phillip North, Phillip South, and Hammar, and the apartment divisions are Carver, Clayfield, Kershaw , and B-Division. Hammar is currently closed for renovation, and is expected to re-open in September 2005 or January 2006.
As a co-operative, WCRI is a representative democracy. The members elect a board of ten directors to oversee the business and affairs of the corporation. Elections take place every four months, with directors holding office for rotating one-year terms. The board hires staff to manage the business, but retains (and often exercises) ultimate policy-making authority.
In addition, there are a number of decentralized decision-making bodies throughout the co-op, generally charged with organizing social events of various sizes, and spending money on luxury items for the community, such as big-screen televisions and fancy showerheads. Some of these bodies have more extensive policy-making powers, but these powers are rarely exercised.
The history of WCRI began in September 1964 with the founding of the Waterloo division of Campus Co-operative Residence Incorporated of Toronto. Initially, two separate houses on University Avenue accomodated 27 male and nine female students, though meals were taken together at the men's house. One cook was hired, but all other work was done by the members.
Expansion was the word of the day in the early years of the co-op, and by September 1966 over 200 students lived in various WCRI accomodations. In addition to owning several houses, the co-op had built a four-storey dormitory called Hammar, the first such building in North America to be built, owned, and operated by students. At this point in time, full time staff were beginning to be hired to handle various administrative matters.
In January 1969, the co-op completed the construction of two new dormitory divisions and an apartment division on Phillip Street. The former were called Phillip North and South, and the latter was simply called the Apartment Division. At this time, resident membership surpassed 600, including some members who still lived in houses.
In 1976, the last of the houses were sold off, beginning what could be thought of as the modern era of WCRI. This also coincided with revolutionary changes to the organizational structure of the co-op, creating a democratic and managerial hierarchy that would appear familiar to members today.
In 1986, the co-op undertook the construction of three new apartment divisions on Phillip Street, right next to the existing property, named Carver, Clayfield, and Kershaw . The existing Apartment Division was renamed B-Division to disambiguate.
In 1993, the co-operative used some empty space in the basement of Clayfield to open an English-style pub called Weavers' Arms. The pub was financially unsucessful year after year, despite several attempts at revitalization, and was permanently closed in August 2004.
After several years of planning, and a couple of false starts, a three million dollar renovation of the Hammar building was due to begin on January 1, 2005. Unfortunately, the work has been delayed for paperwork-related reasons, but is still expected to be completed in time to re-open in September 2005 or January 2006.
It is anticpated that a similar renovation of the older buildings on Phillip Street will need to be performed within the next five to ten years, and rough plans for this are already under contemplation.
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