Work begins on arts centre

Concert hall scheduled to be completed by fall 2013

The preservation of the Stella Buck building caused concern prior to construction beginning.
The preservation of the Stella Buck building caused concern prior to construction beginning.
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Construction has begun on the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, which is set to open its first stage in fall of 2013.

“It will open in stages,” Gordon Smith, associate dean of Arts and Science, said. Smith is the chair of the centre’s Operations and Planning Committee.

“The concert hall will open first and we are hoping to have a series of concerts in the fall of 2013. The actual teaching in the facility will not happen until 2014,” he said.

A dozen workers are currently working at the site to break the limestone ground so a crane can move in during the first week of June to start digging the foundations.

The construction team for the centre is confident that work will be finished on schedule. The rest of the centre will open in summer 2014.

“It will be fantastic for Queen’s students. We’re going to have one of the best concert halls in eastern Canada for our music students, a black box theatre for drama students,” Smith said, adding that there will also be a film screening room.

“The facilities are really state of the art,” he said.

The centre will be the new home of the Film and Media department faculty offices, as well as teaching spaces. The Music, Drama and Fine Arts departments will also use the centre for teaching and performances.

Smith said the centre will definitely affect enrolment numbers for Arts programs at Queen’s, but there are currently no plans to increase enrolment in them.

Construction of the centre was supposed to begin in spring 2011, but the history and heritage of the site caused the two year delay.

“The delay was a combination of things. This is a really complicated project because of the site. All of the heritage issues took a long time to work through,” Smith said.

In 2010, members of the City of Kingston’s heritage committee objected to plans to remove the windows and chimney on the Stella Buck Building, which were built in 1923.

The planning team ultimately decided to maintain the windows but not the chimney.

The Stella Buck building will be incorporated into the centre, forming the west side of the centre and including backstage areas and a film production studio.

Members of city council also objected to the shiny metallic siding the planning team originally planned to use, which they said would be a potential distraction to passing motorists. They have since chosen a less shiny siding.

“It was a mutually agreeable decision, so there was no lingering animosity on those features at all. The city is really pleased with the university’s work on maintaining the heritage features.”

Smith said he hopes the centre will boost tourism in the area.

“We’ve got some really exciting plans for festivals and other functions happening within the Bader Centre,” Smith said

— With files from Katherine Fernandez-Blance

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