St. Catharines construction to create dynamic downtown

As Originally Seen in the Daily Commercial News :

Construction is underway in the heart of downtown St. Catharines on two adjacent projects, the downtown performing arts centre and the new home of Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Both projects were designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Funded by the three levels of government, the 90,000-square-foot performing arts facility is comprised of four state-of-the-art performance venues for music, theatre, dance and film: a 775-seat concert hall, a 160-seat theatre, a 300-seat recital hall and a 200-seat film theatre. For its part, the Brock project will renovate the century-old Canada Hair Cloth building, add 35,000 square feet of new space and provide classrooms, teaching studios, staff offices and a 280-seat flexible studio theatre.

“These are independent projects that present tremendous opportunity to create dynamic synergies for students, the cultural community and the city of St. Catharines and the Niagara region,” said Gary McCluskie, principal at Diamond Schmitt.

“The multiple public faces of the centre will integrate with the character of St. Paul Street and provide a focus for downtown activities and community life,” added McCluskie, whose previous performing arts projects include Maison Symphonique in Montreal, Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge and the Burlington performing arts centre.

The contractor on both projects is Bird Construction.

For Brock, the estimated $30.08-million restoration and repurposing of the five-storey factory will bring the bright loft spaces back to life for 500 students of music, visual and performing arts.

“The design response is very much inspired by the remarkable heritage structures and river valley setting,” said Michael Leckman, principal at Diamond Schmitt.

The area between the two projects consists of the historic mill ‘raceway’ that brought water from the Welland Canal to the factory.

“Landscaping will enliven this communal space, further connecting both facilities and enhance the renewal of downtown St. Catharines into a vital city centre and focal point for the arts in the Niagara region.”

Leckman said soil reinforcement was required on the Brock project. As well, the adaptive re-use of the facility requires introducing modern electrical, mechanical and acoustical systems.

“In addition, the existing building is timber, so we worked with current, objective-based codes to find a compliance route for this timber structure which is five storeys tall.”

The project is being undertaken by a team that includes structural engineers Blackwell Bowick Partnership, electrical engineers Mulvey & Banani International Inc., mechanical engineers Crossey Engineering Ltd., heritage consultants ERA Architects Inc. and landscape architects Claude Cormer + Associates.

Construction is scheduled for completion in summer 2015.

In the case of the performing arts centre, McCluskie said a particular construction challenge is the sloped site. The main street entrance on St. Paul Street is two levels above the valley entrance that connects to Brock.

“This led to the design concept of stacking two of the performance spaces (dance theatre and film theatre), to take advantage of this site feature and reduce the footprint of the building.”

City council voted in late May to award the tender to Bird at a cost of $42 million. The team includes Blackwell Bowick, Mulvey & Banani, and Crossey Engineering.
St. Catharines Construction To Create Dynamic Downtown : News & Media : Bird Construction