Two projects side by side in downtown St. Catharines, Ontario moved into the construction stage this week. The $60-million Downtown Performing Arts Centre (being funded by the City) is a new 90,000-square-foot facility comprised of four state-of-the-art performance venues for music, theatre, dance and film. Next door, Brock University acquired a century-old manufacturing facility next to the Performing Arts Centre site to relocate its Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts from a suburban campus. The project will renovate the Canada Hair Cloth building, add 35,000 square feet of new space and provide classrooms, teaching studios, staff offices and a 280-seat flexible studio theatre. Both are being designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects.
“These are independent projects that present tremendous opportunity to create dynamic synergies for students, the cultural community and the city of St. Catharines and the Niagara region,” said Gary McCluskie, principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects. The Performing Arts Centre, which is on the city’s historic main street, consists of a 775-seat concert hall, a 160-seat theatre, a 300-seat recital hall and a 200-seat film theatre.
“The multiple public faces of the centre will integrate with the character of St. Paul Street and provide a focus for downtown activities and community life,” added McCluskie, whose previous performing arts projects include Maison Symphonique in Montreal, Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge and the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.
For Brock, the restoration and repurposing of this five-storey factory will bring the bright loft spaces back to life for 500 students of music, visual and performing arts. “The design response is very much inspired by the remarkable heritage structures and river valley setting,” said Michael Leckman, principal at Diamond Schmitt. The area between the two projects consists of the historic mill ‘raceway’ that brought water from the Welland Canal to the factory.