Partners, politicians and downtown boosters joined Brock University officials today in a celebration at the St. Catharines construction site that will be the new home of Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.
Amid scaffolding and construction equipment, workers paused for about 30 minutes while guests got a close-up look at the progress and saluted the efforts of designers, engineers and project leaders who have stewarded the major initiative through more than two years of planning.
Marilyn Walker herself wielded a shovel alongside University President Jack Lightstone, Brock Board Chair Joe Robertson and other officials for a ceremonial ground-breaking, even though the site has been a hive of activity for several months.
With a budget of $39.6 million, the project will transform the former Canada Haircloth textile mill into an innovative teaching facility whose 500 students, faculty and staff will help revitalize the city centre when they relocate from Brock’s main campus in 2015.
Situated between a new Performing Arts Centre and a new Spectator Facility, which are being built by the City of St. Catharines, the school is one of several major projects that will dramatically change the face of the city core.
The Brock project received $26.2 million from the Ontario government, and is also being supported by numerous generous partners from across the community.
Lightstone told today’s gathering that the new Walker School “is a tribute to the concept of community partnership. This is much more than a building. It is a statement about what can happen when many hands work together to build a better future.”
The project moved into full construction mode in January after Brock entered into an agreement with the low bidder, Bird Construction Group.
Much of the project involves renovating existing buildings, parts of which are from the area’s industrial heritage and date to the 19th century. While the retrofitting will largely take place indoors, the landmark’s exterior will be visually refreshed with new windows and restored brickwork. Plus there will also be new construction when a dramatic arts theatre rises in the coming months and invigorates the downtown landscape.