Tett tenants want answers about their future

Liz Schell, chair of the Domino Theatre, with Bob Brooks. The theatre is negotiating their lease with Queen’s.
Liz Schell, chair of the Domino Theatre, with Bob Brooks. The theatre is negotiating their lease with Queen’s.

Tenants of a building Queen’s bought for a new art center are now expecting the University to find them a new home.

The Domino Theatre and Stella Buck Centre, the two buildings that make up the J.K. Tett complex, officially became Queen’s property on July 31.

The buildings, located at 370 King St., will be converted into a performing arts centre that will provide classrooms, offices, a concert hall and other facilities for the Schools of Music and Drama and the Art Department.

The Domino Theatre has been operating for 31 years and the existing lease between the theatre and the city ends July 2008. The theatre is being used by the community theatre company of the same name.

Liz Schell, chair of the Domino Theatre Board of Directors, said she’s concerned about how things will work out once renovations begin.

“Where will people park? When the negotiations were just beginning to take place, we told the city and the University it wouldn’t be easy. Then Queen’s replied that Domino would be an asset, complimenting the performing arts centre.”

Schell said Domino Theatre can’t terminate its production schedule due to construction, as people have already purchased subscriptions and tickets to see performances.

Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Andrew Simpson said the University will arrange for the Domino Theatre to move and hold its productions at another location during renovations.

Schell said the relocation, which has yet to be determined, is a part of negotiations with the University.

“We are expecting the University to rent out a place, to make provisions for us to move to the Baby Grand ... or somewhere,” she said. Schell said the Domino Theatre already has a working relationship with the University, since many engineering and drama students work with the company.

“We know each other already,” she said. “Of course we want to stay, but we also want to stay healthy.”

The Theatre is negotiating with the University for a new 10-year lease.

Simpson said the new performing arts centre was initially supposed to be on campus, but space was an issue. “A big advantage [to the Tett Complex] is its proximity to the community and existing arts groups on site,” Simpson said.

Although he declined to reveal the amount the University paid for the land, Simpson said Queen’s alumnus Alfred Bader’s “ generous” gift—about $14 million, Bader told the Journal—is enough to cover not only the price of the property, but future construction costs as well.

Glen Laubenstein, chief administrative officer of the City of Kingston, said the city wants to ensure any renovations preserve the complex’s historical significance.

He added that the city is hoping to use the money from the sale to upgrade the Tett Centre, which still belongs to the city.

“The Stella Buck Centre also needs major renovations,” he said, adding that the city’s own construction design is only in the planning stage and may take several years.

Simpson said the University has no definite date for the construction to start.

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