The effort to move Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts into downtown St. Catharines received a major boost today when the Rotary Club of St Catharines donated $100,000 to the project, the largest single gift in the club’s 91-year history.
The announcement came at a ceremony at the vacant textile mill that will be extensively renovated and expanded to house the new school. The project is a key piece of one of the most important redevelopment initiatives ever to take place in downtown St. Catharines.
Rotary Club President John Crossingham said his colleagues realize the Brock downtown project is a critical opportunity to invest in the city’s future.
“Our members come from all across the community,” said Crossingham. “We’re here today to show that Brock’s project is something the community can get behind, and we hope Rotary’s decision prompts others to step up and help make this opportunity a reality.”
Crossingham said gifts like this are possible because of the support Rotary receives for fundraising efforts such as Ribfest or the annual Rotary TV Auction, which takes place this year Nov. 24-26.
The contribution was warmly welcomed by University officials, who see Rotary’s decision as an important public endorsement of the plan to relocate more than 500 students and faculty into the city centre, revitalizing a downtown that has been in decline for many years.
“I can tell you that Brock is ecstatic today,” said Douglas Kneale, Dean of Humanities and a member of the team overseeing the project. “This shows the power of partnership. We recognize that this is a huge commitment for Rotary to make, and we are thrilled they are helping to make this project come true for the benefit of the entire community.”
Due to be open in 2014, the Brock project is half of a major collaboration that will see the Walker School situated adjacent to a public Performing Arts Centre being built by the City of St. Catharines.
For the University, moving Walker School downtown will enrich the student experience, free up much-needed space on Brock’s main campus and help spark economic and cultural renaissance across the Niagara community.
Alongside other support, the Brock project is made possible because of $26.2 million provided by the Ontario government’s Open Ontario program to create new jobs and growth.