Expansion projects in preliminary stages

An update on the University’s expansion interests

J.K. Tett building

Last July, the University purchased the J.K. Tett building in hopes of providing students with a performing arts center. The project is still at the beginning stages. Andrew Simpson, vice-principal
(operations and finances), said the University is hoping to construct a performing arts facility that
will house a concert hall and a new theatre. “We haven’t got any designs at this point,” he said. “We would hope that we might have an agreed design completed certainly by late this year.
“Because it’s a heritage site, we’ll need to work through various approvals with the city.”

He said he hopes to begin construction in the fall of next year. Tom Williams is the committee chair for the Tett Centre project. The committee met for the first time last Thursday and met again last night.

“[Last week’s meeting was] an organizational meeting,” Williams said. “We identified the tasks that the
committee had to accomplish over the next two to three months.”

Williams said the first priority is choosing an architect around mid-April.

“We talked in terms of a general timeline and we’d like to begin construction sometime in 2008,” he said, adding that he hopes the construction will be complete in 2009. The Tett Centre project has three components, Williams said. “The first is to build a performing arts building and what will be an auditorium and it will also have a theatre for drama. The second component will be to renovate one of the existing buildings called the Stella Buck building and eventually that will house classrooms and academic offices.”

At last night’s meeting, the committee discussed the specific characteristics of the large performance hall. Williams said it’s one of the most exciting projects he has ever been involved in.

“The site has been described as a jewel because it’s right on the waterfront,” he said. “We want to make sure we develop a performance hall which is state-ofthe- art.” Williams added that the committee will also be holding public meetings to get input.

Canada Corrections Centre

Simpson said the University has also been looking to acquire the regional headquarters of the
Canada Corrections Centre, which is the site adjacent to the J.K. Tett Centre.

“We have expressed interest in purchasing that property when Corrections Canada has no further use for it,” he said. “It would allow us to think more broadly about development that might make sense on that wonderful property.”

Negotiations with the federal government about a possible purchase are still in the early stages, he said. Diane Russon, regional manager of communications of Ontario for Corrections Canada, said at this point, it’s not a closed issue. “We’re working with the city,” she said. “We’re in the process of relocating the halfway house. I think it’s something in the future that we might be considering but at this point now, we’re still here and occupying it for the not-so-distant future.”

Prison for Women

The University is also planning to acquire the Prison for Women located on Sir John A. MacDonald Boulevard, but negotiations are still ongoing with Canada Lands Company, a crown corporation that manages unused government property.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to go forward with any negotiations until Canada Lands has title … and they’re still negotiating with Corrections Canada.”

Until that’s finalized, the University can’t complete negotiations for the land, he said. Simpson said one of the key initiatives will be relocating the archives department into the new building.

“Archives have expressed an interest in that move,” he said. “Apart from that, we have a number of concepts of what sort of things we might want to develop.” The building could house research-related facilities, he said, but the University hasn’t pursued much planning yet because the site hasn’t been secured. “As soon as Canada Lands has secured the ownership of the site, I would be hoping we’d
be able to reach an expeditious settlement with Canada Lands,” he said. “But … I don’t know the likely time frame for Canada Lands reaching settlement with Canada Corrections.

“I think there have been a number of technical difficulties and legal issues that needed to be resolved.” Russon said there are a number of minor issues that are still in the process of working out.

“One of the [issues] is Parks Canada has recently indicated that there’s historical parts that have to be preserved,” she said. “We’re working with Canada Lands and Parks Canada to try to appease the parts that need to be preserved.” Russon said the minor technical issues have to be resolved before title is turned over to Canada Lands. Bill Glover, city councillor for the Sydenham district and a member of the Kingston Municipal Heritage Committee, said city council is waiting for a proposal from Canada Lands. “More than a year ago, we were expecting a proposal coming,” he said. “My understanding is that while people recognize [the building’s] historical importance, [the] municipality is unable to designate it because the federal government is a sovereign government.”

Glover said one part of the building that is of historic importance is the architecture of the administration block. Canada Lands could not be reached for comment.

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