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Additions to U of O campus among proposed expansions

Photo courtesy of the CBC

A City of Ottawa development committee has recommended that council approve plans for a new $100 million arts complex, part of which will be used by the University of Ottawa’s theatre department.

The Ottawa Art Gallery expansion and Arts Court redevelopment project would mean new condos, a hotel boutique, and new facilities for the U of O.

City staff recommended the developers EBC Inc., DevMcGill, and Groupe Germain construct the 21-storey complex at 60–70 Waller Street.

Claudio Brun del Re, the U of O’s executive director of the Physical Resources Service, said the university is willing to make a $9 million contribution for facilities that the university would have exclusive right to use.

If city council approves the proposal, the U of O’s theatre department will receive a new 120-seat theatre and four new classrooms.

The university plans to build a black box theatre, in which the seats aren’t fixed. As Brun del Re explained, “This would allow them more flexibility to do more experimental work.”

The theatre department is currently housed in the more than 100-year-old Academic Hall. The building was first constructed in 1901 and is the oldest theatre in the National Capital Region.

“The theatre department is crunched for space,” said Brun del Re.

He said the proposal is advantageous because the Arts Court building would have “likeminded or similar functions” to what the university needs.

No binding agreement has yet been made between the city and the U of O and the city has not yet provided the school with a final cost, including the operating model and other technical requirements. Brun del Re said it will be several months before both parties can move to the next stage.

The expansion would also include a larger space for the Ottawa Art Gallery, which would allow more of its collection to be out of storage and on display, and addition of a 250-seat multi-purpose film screen room. New and old buildings would also be connected to create a more accessible arts complex.

“This magnificent project will create jobs, attract visitors to our city and provide a revitalized downtown space to showcase Ottawa’s inspiring and talented arts community,” Mayor Jim Watson said on his website.

City council voted unanimously last November to begin the procurement process for the project. The redevelopment has been a decade in the making, according to the CBC, as it has faced numerous challenges and setbacks.

The city is investing $41.7 million in the redevelopment project, while the remaining $60 million will come from the private sector.

Upon approval, construction is set to begin in December and wrap up in 2017, in time for Canada’s 150th birthday festivities.