Mitchell Hall bills University for approximately $105 million

Planning, approving and building the new Physical Education Centre

Mitchell Hall first opened its doors in December.
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After two years of construction, Mitchell Hall formally opened its doors last December—since then, almost all services located in the building have become completely operational. Planning for the new building began as far back as late 2015.

Tom Harris, provost and vice-principal (academic), believes that Mitchell Hall is a bright, open, and welcoming environment that supports both students and faculty.

Harris told The Journal in an interview the Physical Education Centre (PEC)—the current site of Mitchell Hall—was functional but had little light and wasn’t an inviting facility. Meanwhile, both Student Affairs and the Engineering and Applied Science faculty were discussing their need for additional facilities.

The architects, CS&P Architects, held visioning sessions for design and programming with faculty and Student Affairs.

There was student involvement in the project—both undergraduate and graduate students participated in the initial planning sessions. The 2015 AMS and SGPS presidents also sat on the Campus Planning Advisory Committee which reviewed design plans.

“We really wanted to have a design which was really forward looking, that reflected the university’s approach to health and wellness,” Harris said. “A lot of thought went to into the design to ensure it’s welcoming and gives flexibility to address current and future needs.”

Construction began on the PEC site in September 2016, a year after planning had been initiated.

However, over the course of construction, the project faced delays.

According to Harris, the delays totaled up to around three to four months. The University had hoped to open more functions this past September but weren’t able to at the time.

“There’s no question we had delays,” Harris said. “We put together an ambitious timeline.”

The delays related to labour shortages and material acquisition; however, these disruptions were not unique to Queen’s, and represented an Ontario-wide disruption.

Some unexpected challenges also arose from incorporating the PEC’s 1930s original front-entrance construction with the new designs, Harris said.

The delays forced the prioritization of construction to certain facilities—these included gymnasiums required in time for the fall examination period.

The other priority was the innovation spaces, primarily the Rose Innovation Hub. In order to qualify for federal funding, the building’s innovation components had to be completed according to the government’s deadline.

Queen’s received $19 million of federal government funding, under the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, which is reserved for university-based projects centered on research and innovation.

The project was granted around $2.8 million of provincial funds and $50 million from benefactors.

According to Harris, the final cost of the project is an estimated $105 million.

The balance of the funding was provided by the university—approximately $30 million drawn from the operating budget, which includes student fees, government grants, and reserve funds.

Although the formal opening ceremony won’t be held until Mar. 30, almost the entire building is operational.

The first wing made available to students was the Examination Centre. Completed in time for the fall semester examination period, the centre provides space for students requiring exam accommodations.

After over 50 years in the JDUC, the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) relocated to Mitchell follow its opening. The new facility includes a lounge for students, a workshop room—the Ed Churchill Hall of Friendship—a kitchen, and a ping-pong table.

Also relocated into the building is Faith and Spiritual Life and Student Community Relations. In addition, all three gymnasiums are currently operational.

The Gregory David and Neil Rossy Health Promotion Hub, featured on the main floor, assists students in achieving a healthy lifestyle—physically, mentally, and socially—by providing education and support through peer programs, training, and development workshops.

Mitchell also hosts academic spaces—the Rose Innovation Hub houses an event space, a makerspace, and will be the new home of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (QIC).

The makerspace provides equipment for prototyping projects, while the QIC supports student innovation and entrepreneurship activity. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science also now has access to technology-enabled active learning classrooms

Still yet to be opened is the Beaty Water Research Centre and the Institute for Disruptive Technologies.

The research centre draws from engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, and health sciences to explore issues related to water use, quality, and governance—it will formally open in early 2019.

The institute won’t be unveiled until the end of the academic year, but once opened, it’ll support the design and use of artificial intelligence.

Although Health Promotion has relocated, the remaining Student Wellness Services (SWS) won’t be making the move to the Côté Sharpe Wellness Centre in Mitchell until the spring. While the centre is complete, SWS is to remain at La Salle until the end of the academic year to limit disruption to the service.

“We wanted to have a building that was accessible in all sense of the word,“ Harris said. “It really is a signature building at Queen’s.”

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