Mixed‑Use Facility moves ahead; Memorial Arena to come down

Arena to remain through April 2012

- November 30, 2011

An early rendition of the LeMarchant Street Mixed-Use Facility.
An early rendition of the LeMarchant Street Mixed-Use Facility.

A major Dalhousie construction project is moving forward – but it will also bring with it short- and long-term implications for athletics and recreation facilities on campus.

The Dalhousie Board of Governors passed the motion to construct the new LeMarchant Street Mixed-Use Facility—which will house 326 residence beds along with several student services—but to build the facility, the Memorial Arena will need to come down, leaving the university without an arena for about four years.

The Mixed-Use Facility has been in the planning stages for the past year and has involved a great deal of consultation with user groups including current students on the design/layout of the residence rooms. At seven stories, the building will cost $48 million and, in addition to the residence spaces, will also be home to the Student Recruitment & Welcoming Centre, International and Black Student Centres, Health Services and Counseling Services.

However, shortly after the project entered the design stage, it became apparent that the neighbouring Memorial Arena—almost 30 years old—would not be able to accommodate the extra snow-load resulting from the new building, and would require a new roof at a cost of $3-4 million. When added to the other planned upgrades to the arena (identified in the campus master plan), this would put the total renovation costs for the arena at $10-12 million – roughly the same as the cost to build a new basic facility.

The arena is scheduled to come down following exams in April 2012.

“We’re working on a solution to house our varsity and recreation programs and are close to finalizing the details,” says Director of Athletics John MacDonald. “Winter 2012 programming—varsity hockey games, skating lessons, ice rentals, intramural and sport club programs, member skating—will not be affected and will continue as scheduled.”

Improving campus recreation in the long term

Though the Board were only voting on the mixed-use facility construction—which necessitates taking down the arena—they were also shown how the university plans to use this opportunity to respond to campus recreation needs at an even quicker pace than originally planned.

In one possibility, the fitness and wellness components of the original Dalplex renewal plan identified in the campus planning process—including cardio equipment, group fitness facilities and physiotherapy services—would be constructed on the Memorial Arena site, rather than waiting for the proposed demolition of Eliza Ritchie Hall across the road on South Street (which cannot proceed until the mixed-use facility beds are available).

“This would mean that the construction of the fitness centre could begin in the Fall of 2012 and it could be open by the Spring of 2014, which is at least one year earlier than projected, providing much needed recreation and wellness for students,” says Jeff Lamb, assistant vice-president, Facilities Management. He notes that it’s this facility that students will support, once completed, through the Fitness and Recreational Renewal Fee.

As for Memorial Arena, the university envisions possibly constructing its replacement on South Street, where the new fitness centre was originally planned. This project would begin following Eliza Ritchie’s proposed demolition.

“We acknowledge that this is not an ideal situation in the short term for those who currently use the arena, and we’re doing everything we can to accommodate the difficulties it presents,” acknowledged Charles Crosby, university spokesperson. “But in the long run, this will mean major, transformative improvements in campus athletics and recreation.”

Moving forward on mixed-use

The tender for the mixed-use facility was awarded to Aecon Atlantic. They have erected a temporary construction fence, encompassing the four university-owned houses (1220, 1226, 1234 and 1233) on LeMarchant Street which will be deconstructed over the next month. Two construction trailers have arrived on campus and will replace the motorcycle parking in the outdoor Risley Hall lot until December 2013.

The Grad House will remain open during the construction and the arena will be open until Spring 2012, although access will be restricted to pedestrian traffic only. The temporary fence will be replaced by a permanent fence in late December 2011.  When the permanent fence is in place, the South Street parking lot will limited to metered parking.
In order to construct the building, the university applied to have a portion of the land rezoned from U1 to U2. The application is headed to peninsular council for a public hearing on December 12, after which the decision is subject to a two-week appeal period.

“The university can apply for a demolition and excavation permits before the decision has been made on the application but will need to wait to apply for the building permit,” explains Mr. Lamb. “This will allow us to move ahead with the project without affecting the timeline too much while the rezoning application is before HRM.”

The university and the architects are working on the colour schemes for the building. The image above is an early sketch – the colour on the bottom two floors will change. The university has hosted several public meetings with the neighbourhood and will be hosting a design charrette with the local and Dalhousie community to discuss landscaping of the building in the near future.

Construction schedule – Mixed-Use Facility

November 2011:

  • Set up Site offices and demolition fencing
  • Begin abatement and demolition of house

December 2011:

  • Continue with working drawings
  • Start tendering for trade packages
  • Continue abatement and demolition of houses
  • Revision to arena exiting and Set Up main construction fencing

January 2012:

  • Continue abatement and demolition of houses
  • Site work, excavation and rock removal

February 2012 to November 2012:

  • Concrete structure

August 2012 to May 2013:

  • Exterior envelope

January 2013 to August 2013:

  • Interior finishes
  • Landscaping
  • Furniture and equipment
  • Construction complete in August 2013

September 2013:

  • Open for students


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