Queen’s buys Tett complex to house performing arts

The musicians, dancers and artists of Queen’s will soon have a performance space to call their own, after city council approved the sale of part of the J.K. Tett complex to the University.

On Tuesday night, all council members except Rick Downes voted to sell the Stella Buck Building and the Domino Theatre to the University. The City will retain ownership of the J.K Tett centre, the third building in the complex.

The University was one of three groups wanting to purchase the complex, located at 370 King Street West.

The University’s proposal includes plans to turn the centre into a 300-350 seat concert hall, a 200-seat performance theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre and teaching spaces for the faculties of music, film and drama.

Principal Hitchcock said she’s delighted with council’s decision and with the assessment of the building made by Artscape Inc., a consulting group hired by the city to look at plans for the complex.

“It was a good quality assessment–informed and careful and well thought-out,” she said.

All three buildings have been designated as National Historic Sites and were originally part of the Morton Brewery and Distillery complex in the 1840s.

The University’s agreement with the city will see the city helping to pay for renovation costs.

“We’ll be working with the city to make this a success for all,” Hitchcock said.

Alfred Bader, ArtSci ’45, said he is donating $14 million to the University towards the purchase of the land and the construction of the Isabel Bader Performing Arts Centre, named in honour of his wife.

About $12 million is already in a reserve fund at the University, and will be “topped up” to about $14 million for the arts centre, Bader said.

One option discussed was for the University to lease the land from the city, but Bader said he wouldn’t fund that initiative.

“I would like Queen’s to own the land, not to lease the land,” he said. “There are no buildings at Queen’s which are leased land. It’s a nutty idea.”

The performing arts centre will be the latest of Bader’s gifts to Queen’s, which include Herstmonceux Castle in England and several paintings in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

“Queen’s has been wonderful to me, and I want to say thank you ... Why not have an Isabel Bader Performing Art Centre at Queen’s?” he said. “Then the question will be, ‘What can we do next?’”

--With files from Anna Mehler Paperny and Matthew Trevisan

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