Articles tagged with: downtown revitalization

  • Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts wins National Trust Award

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts was honoured with one of five National Trust for Canada national Cornerstone Awards for building restoration! Read more about it at Niagara This Week.


    The National Trust noted the Marilyn I. Walker centre’s transformation of the old hair cloth factory dating back to 1888 — along with a 35,000 square-foot addition — is a “key element” of the broader downtown revitalization plan and was done while retaining many elements of the historic building’s interior such as wooden floor beams, metal columns and stone and masonry walls.

    Scott Roper, project manager for Brock, said in the university’s Brock Press publication that Brock had “utter success” in creating a stand-out academic entity while being a trigger for the social, economic and urban revitalization of downtown St. Catharines.

    “While Brock has constructed several substantial buildings over the past two decades, the creation of the Marilyn Walker School represented a bold step into the downtown, integration with the surrounding community, and into the unfamiliar area of adaptive re-use,” Roper said.

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    Categories: In the Media

  • New video about the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts released

    vlcsnap-2015-11-30-17h40m00s251_thSee this introduction to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock University in St. Catharines ON, with scenes from the events of the official opening of the new facility on September 18, 2015.



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  • St. Catharines celebrates opening of ‘transformative’ downtown arts school

    Brock University ambassadors provided a tour of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts following the grand opening proceedings.

    Brock University ambassadors provided a tour of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts following the grand opening proceedings.

    (Source: Niagara This Week, September 21, 2015 | By Mike Zettel)

    ST. CATHARINES – There was excitement in the air Friday in front of the former Canada Hair Cloth building as hundreds gathered under and around a large tent to celebrate a new purpose for the 19th century textile factory.

    The culmination of a work begun more than eight years ago, Brock University and the City of St. Catharines officially opened the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. The building, which, skillfully designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, incorporates much of the former factory, including its brick, wooden and steel beams and large windows, while adding state-of-the-art elements.

    It houses the dramatic arts, music, and visual arts departments, as well as the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture. In all, 50 full-time faculty members, part-time instructors and staff will join about 500 students in the $45.5-million facility.

    Brock president Jack Lightstone traced the path leading to last week’s opening, saying it began with a vision by former chancellor Ray Moriyama and former dean of humanities Rosemary Hale, who say the potential for the old industrial site located right in the heart of the downtown.

    The school complements the soon opening FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, with students going back and forth between the two adjacent facilities.

    Lightstone said the decision to move downtown was made at Brock under the condition the university would not be making a standalone building but rather one that works within a new vision for the downtown as a hub of arts, culture, entertainment and digital media.

    “Right from the very beginning it was conceived we would use each other’s buildings in a symbiotic and dynamic way,” he said.

    The beginnings of the project were also accompanied by an inevitable skepticism, Lightstone said, noting he was reminded all too often of the many failed plans for revitalizing the downtown.

    Those voices were largely silenced, though, he said, by the generous and “transformative” gift by Norris and Marilyn I. Walker of $15 million to establish the school.

    “When they made that commitment, everyone knew we had no choice but to make it happen,” he said, calling it a “catalytic moment.”

    MPP Jim Bradley, who Lightstone referred to as the minister of Niagara and Brock, said the school has added to a new feeling of optimism for downtown St. Catharines.

    “Today it stands as a testament to our manufacturing past and as an example of our economic renewal and creative spirit in our community,” he said.

    Mayor Walter Sendzik noted there were many who made the vision for the school a reality, and he singled out the previous council under former Mayor Brian McMullan for ensuring the building, which had to be expropriated, was available for Brock.

    However, he said three people, Lightstone, Hale and Walker, were crucial to its success.

    “Take one of those involved out of the equation, and I don’t think we’re standing here today,” he said.

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  • GRAND OPENING: The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at 15 Artists’ Common, Downtown St. Catharines

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and the Department of Dramatic Arts celebrated the grand opening of the new facility on Friday, September 18th, 2015.  Hundreds of people from the community were on hand to share the milestone. Below, we’ve collected some videos and news items from that event:

    Read the article in the Brock News, complete with short video tours.

    See this short report by TVCOGECO Niagara on the occasion of the Grand Opening Ceremony:

    See the report “Brock celebrates new school in heart of the city” in the St. Catharines Standard, featuring two short videos about the school and Marilyn I. Walker:

    Listen to the report about the new MIWSFPA facility’s grand opening from the The Brock News podcast Episode 1, one in a series of podcasts being produced at the University, showcasing interesting people, research and news. The segment on the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts can be found at cue 1:40 – 3:54. We’ve provided a clip here.

    Brock University ambassadors provided a tour of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts following the grand opening proceedings.

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  • With construction finished, Brock’s new downtown arts school gets ready to educate

    (Source: The Brock News, Monday, June 1, 2015. Photo: Music student Grace Snippe performs during a media tour of the Marilyn I. Walker School for the Fine and Performing Arts on Friday. A videographer from CHCH in Hamilton zooms in.)

    On 15 May 2015, after more than two years of construction, a major project in downtown St. Catharines was granted formal occupancy by the city’s building department.

    At that moment, the new home of Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts officially stopped being a building project and began life as a dynamic educational facility.

    The keys were handed over, and the University became responsible for everything from security guards to providing Wi-Fi, switching on the lights and cleaning the restrooms.

    Brock University President Jack Lightstone calls the MIWSFPA a landmark development for Brock and Niagara.

    “For Brock, it provides another purpose-built facility serving the very specialized needs of the school, like the Cairns Complex has done for science and health science,” he said. “For Niagara, it is a landmark in what a university and a city government can achieve in a close working partnership to bring new life and a new economic base to St. Catharines’ downtown core.”

    The five-storey school is partly new construction and partly restored heritage buildings, including a 19th-century textile mill. But it’s all state-of-the-art, from the new 235-seat performing arts theatre to its digital media studios, photo darkrooms, instrumental music rooms and any other number of specialized facilities needed to support the development of students within numerous genres of dramatic arts, music and visual arts.

    The project was designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, who have been the visionaries behind entertainment complexes in cities from Toronto and Montreal to St. Petersburg, Russia.

    “The adaptive re-use of this fine heritage structure is bringing to life innovations in dramatic arts education that demonstrate the value of preserving this building in the revitalization of St. Catharines,” said Michael Leckman, principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

    The inaugural wave of 500 students won’t arrive for another three months, but from now until September the Walker School will bustle with activity.

    Just furnishing an empty 93,700-square-foot complex will take weeks, and once the moving trucks have stopped unloading, faculty and staff members relocating from the Walker School’s current home on the main Brock campus will scramble to get settled and organized for a September they will always remember.

    The ambitious $45.5-million project was made possible by a $26.2-million investment from the Ontario government as well as a $15-million transformational gift from local textile artist and philanthropist Marilyn I. Walker.

    Walker, who recently got her first tour of the completed project, said she was extremely pleased with the final result.

    “It’s a challenge to your imagination to comprehend what all could be done within this building when it comes to educating students,” she said. “It’s not what the physical building means so much as the opportunities it will provide … the possibilities for using these state-of-the art facilities for the benefit of the community.”

    Official opening ceremonies are being planned for mid-September, during Brock’s Homecoming Weekend, and University officials are also working on plans for public tours of the landmark facility, probably sometime in the fall.

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  • Our New Home

    The future of Niagara starts now with a Home for the Arts

    New facilities will soon be opened by the City of St. Catharines and Brock University to serve all of Niagara. This partnership will open a major arts cluster in downtown St. Catharines.  The City is constructing the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre at St.Paul and Carlisle Streets.  Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) will move to the adjacent site of the former Canada Hair Cloth factory.
    The project is set to revitalize the urban growth centre of Niagara, add a major new cultural attractor to our region and serve artists, students and audience members from across the peninsula. The specialized, purpose-built and professionally managed facility will present, promote and develop the arts in Niagara.

    For the most up-to-date information about this exciting project see
    Also see these site tour pictures: The new Performing Arts Centre  and  The new MIWSFPA at 198 St. Paul.

    Here is a recent slide show of the new facility:


    Conceptual Renderings

    Elevations of the project under construction for completion in 2015.
    Images are sourced from
    Drawings by Diamond + Schmitt Architects.

    UPDATE: City of St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre (PAC): Images presented at the Project Open House, September and October 2011.  Future students of the MIWSFPA will be learning and performing in the Recital Hall and the Film/Video Theatre of the PAC. Adjacent to the city-built PAC is the new home of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Click on a thumbnail to view a larger image.

    Drawings by Diamond + Schmitt Architects.

    Site and Venues

    The Canada Hair Cloth Building is the chosen site for the MIW SFPA, and the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre is planned for property at the corner of Carlisle and St. Paul Street. Links between the two facilities are part of the conceptual plans.

    Five distinct arts discipline-specific performance venues are planned:

    • 900-seat concert hall
    • 300-seat recital hall (for the MIW SFPA with some community access)
    • 300-seat theatre venue (MIW SFPA)
    • 250-seat dance/theatre venue
    • 200-seat film venue (shared access)

    The project also includes new classrooms, studio space and all the additional spaces required for the Music, Theatre and Visual Arts programs at Brock, as well as office space, rehearsal hall, a café and lobby space for the PAC and community arts organizations.

    Video Teasers

    ..not so long ago this was the view into our new facility . . .


    A recent tour of the historic Haircloth building in downtown St. Catharines drew a crowd. The building is about to be transformed into the site of Brock’s Fine & Performing Arts programs.



    Provincial funding announced for the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

    April 14, 2010 — St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley announced that the Ontario government will provide $26.2 million over four years to help build a new home for the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. The funding is a major breakthrough for the university and the community. The new Marilyn I. Walker School is being built in partnership with the City of St. Catharines, which will build a civic Niagara Centre for the Arts on the other half of the downtown site. This combined project will revitalize and rejuvenate the downtown core through the renovation of heritage buildings and construction of new performance and staging facilities including a dedicated theatre, rehearsal, teaching and research studios. More than 500 full-time students and faculty will relocate to this new facility, freeing up much needed space for other programs at Brock’s main campus in south St. Catharines.  (from The Brock News)

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  • News of the downtown project

    New facilities for the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

    In February 2011, Diamond & Schmitt Architects of Toronto were chosen to design the new teaching and learning facilities for the faculty, staff, and students of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in the heart of the historic centre of St. Catharines.

    Rehabilitating the former Canada Hair Cloth building for multi-purpose use by the departments of Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts and the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture, these new facilities will provide state-of-the-art production and workshop support, music practice facilities, art studios, lecture and seminar rooms as well as a versatile stand-alone 235-seat theatre for drama students.

    The City of St. Catharines is developing an adjacent Performing Arts Centre (PAC) for which Diamond & Schmitt will also serve as lead architect. Comprising a 775-seat Concert Hall, a 300-seat Recital Hall, a 187-seat Film Theatre and a 210-seat Community Dance Theatre, these facilities will greatly enhance the already strong theatrical and musical offerings in the City of St. Catharines. Under a unique joint agreement with the City of St. Catharines, the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts will have use of the Recital Hall and the Film Theatre in support of its academic programs.

    We invite you to follow the project’s progress and look forward to moving into our new facilities in May 2015.

    Please consider attending one of our Open Houses in October or March, or consult the programs comprising the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts for further information.


    Support the School with your donations

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts will be moving to new purpose-designed facilities located in downtown St. Catharines’ historical Canada Hair Cloth building in May 2015. Designed by the prestigious Toronto-based firm Diamond & Schmitt Architects, the project provides state-of-the-art studio, digital lab, performance, recital, practice, lecture, design and workshop spaces for students in the departments of Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts and our Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture.

    Students and faculty can benefit in a myriad of different ways from the generosity of our donors, including donations made in support of our new downtown school, endowed scholarships, sponsorships of lectures series or programs, and gifts of special equipment, musical instruments or works of art. Donations in support of Brock University and its educational mission are always greatly appreciated.

    Should you wish to help support us we have identified three funding priorities:

    1. The building project
    2. Student awards and scholarships
    3. Research and creativity – sponsorships in support of lecture series, performances, or exhibitions

    For more information regarding how to donate, please click here.

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  • Halfway home: It’s good news for Brock’s downtown arts school

    (Source: The Brock NewsTuesday, February 11, 2014)

    The construction of Brock University’s new arts school in downtown St. Catharines has passed the midway point, as workers have kept the major project moving along despite this winter’s harsh weather.

    Three senior University officials appeared before St Catharines City Council on Monday Feb 10 with an update on the $45-million project that will house the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    And their news was good.

    “We’re on time, and we’re on budget,” said Brian Hutchings, Vice-President of Finance and Administration, who joined President Jack Lightstone and Humanities Dean Douglas Kneale for the council presentation. Hutchings said the Walker School is still scheduled to be open for September 2015.

    Lightstone, who first proposed the idea of twin downtown arts projects when he appeared in the same council chamber seven years ago, said the urban-centre location lets the University play a role in helping local communities. The University and City worked together to find a site for the Brock project in an industrial heritage building, the former Canada Hair Cloth plant.

    “Brock University is proud to be a partner and supporter of St Catharines, and indeed of Niagara,” said Lightstone. “For years Brock has publicly stated that one of our top priorities is to help strengthen our host communities intellectually, socially, culturally and economically.”

    Kneale said creating a new centre of learning in the shell of an old industrial site is a “perfect metaphor” that will help future generations become part of Canada’s billion-dollar cultural sector.

    “We are taking a 19th-century textile factory and turning it into a state-of-the-art facility for more than 500 students,” said Kneale. “Opportunities like this happen but once in a lifetime.”

    As part of the presentation, city councillors viewed a video presentation on the project done by Tracy van Oosten, a Brock graduate of visual arts and film studies.

    At the worksite, the full footprint of the Walker School is now visible. The main structure for the project’s new construction – mainly, the new dramatic arts theatre – is up, and now workers will largely focus on the complex interior work in all of the buildings, the most time-consuming being the renovation and repurposing of the older structures.

    The University and City arts projects were the initial catalysts of a massive downtown renewal initiative, which now also includes the Meridian Centre, a 4,500-seat ice rink and spectator facility expected to be completed this autumn.

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  • Arts centres on time and on budget: Brock, St. Catharines

    (Source: The St. Catharines Standard, Tuesday, February 11, 2014 | By Marlene Bergsma)

    Construction on both the city’s Performing Arts Centre and Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts is on time and on budget – but the recent cold snap has forced the city’s contractor to rent ground-thawing equipment.

    Brock president Jack Lightstone told St. Catharines councillors it’s been seven years since he first made a presentation to council suggesting a partnership to revitalize downtown, and he said Brock continues to be “proud to be a partner and supporter of St. Catharines and Niagara.”

    With an anticipated enrolment of 500 students plus faculty and staff, and the city’s construction of an adjacent performing arts centre, the Walker school of art “will truly revitalize the downtown core of the city,” Lightstone said.

    Brock’s VP of finance and administration, Brian Hutchings, said construction and renovations on Brock’s part of the project are “50% done, and we are on time and on budget.”

    Showing pictures to council, Hutchings said the university is preserving much of the character of the former Canada Hair Cloth building, by showcasing wooden pillars, exposed masonry and existing windows.

    Douglas Kneale, Brock’s Dean of Humanities, said turning the former factory building into classrooms and rehearsal studios “is the perfect metaphor for St. Catharines’ industrial past and post-industrial future.”

    Quoting English Romantic poet William Blake, Kneale said the project is turning “dark Satanic mills” into engines of education and creativity. Kneale also described the state-of-the-art music practice rooms that will offer acoustic isolation with sound-blocking walls, ceilings and windows, and the perfect humidity for singers’ voices and musical instruments.

    Meanwhile a significant part of the foundation has been poured for the city’s performing arts centre project. An aerial shot of the site, taken recently, shows the elevator shaft on the left, next to the crane, and a dark hole in the centre of the frame, which will provide the stairway access to Brock’s school of arts, said St. Patrick’s Coun. Mark Elliott. On the bottom left is bare earth which will be the site of Partridge Hall, the centre’s biggest venue with 775 seats, which will boast sophisticated and invisible acoustical panels which can be automatically adjusted for the type of concert or event.

    Parks and recreation director Rick Lane said the city’s project is also on time and on budget, although the cold weather which has frozen the ground has posed some problems for Bird Construction, which has been using heaters to thaw the earth so they can continue with necessary excavation.

    Mayor Brian McMullan thanked Lightstone for the “vision and passion” he has brought to the project, and said it was “one of the reasons it succeeded and it will truly be a transformative project.”

    Lightstone also showed a video showcasing Brock’s arts programs.


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  • A major step towards the opening of the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre

    Algoma Central Corporation presenting the $250,000 donation

    Algoma Central Corporation presenting the $250,000 donation

    The construction of the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre took a new step towards completion on August 15, 2013. The first crane was erected over the site at the same time the first corporate gift was unveiled. The $250,000 donation from Algoma Central Corporation will secure the name for the lobby of the new facility. This space will be the most central area of the $60.7-million building, $18 million of which was donated by the Government of Canada and $18 million of which was donated by the Government of Ontario.

    City officials see this donation and the erection of the first crane as major steps towards making the dream of the revitilization of the area into reality.

    The St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre will include four performance spaces: a 775-seat concert hall, 300-seat recital hall, 187-seat film theatre and a 210-seat theatre/dance venue.

    When the facility is opened in the fall of 2015, it is expected to host 600 events every year and see 125,000 visitors annually.

    A webcam focused upon the progress of the construction of the Performing Arts Centre can be seen here. The progress of the Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts facility can be seen in the upper right corner of the video feed. The school is anticipated to welcome over 600 students, staff and faculty in the fall of 2015.

    The St. Catharines Standard did a full article on the event.


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