A block of land fronting onto Portage Avenue between Langside and Furby in the Spence neighbourhood is an excellent example of a transformation that just a few short years ago was not even considered until a timely opportunity arose.
In the summer of 2007, the Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA), Westminster Housing and the Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP) got together to sign an agreement with the University of Winnipeg to save four homes on Langside that would have to be relocated to make room for a new student residence and a future science complex for the downtown university. The University financially supported the relocation of the four homes.
With considerable planning and logistical manoeuvering, the relocations occurred during the following year. A Manshield Construction site supervisor was incredibly fastidious about the procedures that the non-profit housing groups would have to follow as part of this LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project.
Early in 2008, when Winnipeg served up a nasty and bitter blustery winter day, representatives from SNA and HOP were interviewed by Shaw Cable. The background setting was the view from Lions Place to the four propped-up homes prior to their relocation to designated infill sites in the Spence, West Broadway and St. Matthews neighbourhoods. It was also gratifying to know these homes would be placed on new foundations in order to enhance the renewal efforts in these inner-city neighbourhoods.
Over three years later, Diane Poulin of the University of Winnipeg was kind enough to give HOP director Peter Squire a sneak preview and tour of the new Science Complex. He was joined by Shaila Wise of WinnipegREALTORS® who documented the new facility in pictures. Manshield Construction’s Justin Bova was the guide for the tour, and was understandably proud to indicate the building will come in on budget and ahead of its planned substantial completion date.
“The cost per square foot of $293 a square foot compares very favourably with similar institutional buildings with laboratories,” said Bova
The state-of-the-art laboratories and other educational classroom and faculty spaces will be a boon for the university and the community as a whole.
The key building features of the Richardson College for the Environment & Science Complex are:
• A model of green building technology, constructed to a LEED Silver Standard, is one of the most energy-efficient educational laboratory buildings in North America. It uses less than half the energy of a conventional building.
• 150,000 square feet, adding another 15 per cent to the facilities of the University of Winnipeg campus.
• Total project cost is $66.58 million, which includes land and site costs, constructions costs, LEED commissioning, furniture, equipment and project contingencies.
• Designed by Number 10 Architects of Winnipeg, one of Canada’s leading green architectural firms. Construction is on track to be completed on time and on budget by Manitoba’s Manshield Construction.
• Consists of more than 30 research and teaching labs, including a vivarium and a 1,000-square-foot rooftop greenhouse.
• The signature four-storey atrium incorporates nine living trees and a 3,000-square-foot wall of reclaimed hard maple from the Winnipeg Roller Rink previously on the site.
• Extensive use of natural daylight (75 per cent of building) with energy-efficient triple-pane glazed windows.
• Computer programmed three-mode air-flow system ventilates labs as required, resulting in significant energy saving.
• A heat recovery wheel, highly innovative and unique to Canada, cleans and filters lab air, warm air is re-circulated, resulting in significant energy savings.
• Low-flow water fixtures on taps and toilets reduces water consumption.
Key building uses and community benefits:
• Daily, approximately 2,000 students will use the building that will house the University’s departments of biology, chemistry and environmental studies.
• The Richardson College for the Environment (third floor) includes the Canada Research Chair in
Indigenous Science Education and the Canada Research Chair in Inner City Issues and Community Learning and Engagement; the Institute of Urban Studies; the master’s in Development Practice program; the Indigenous Studies program; the CISCO Centre for Collaborative Technologies, which includes a world-class TelePresence system and the endowed Cisco Chair for Collaborative Technology; the University Sustainability Office; the university’s medical isotope initiative; and the UW Community Renewal Corporation. Dr. Rod Hanley, the U of W’s dean of science, is principal of the Richardson
• The new facility will house existing outstanding research endeavours and attract other top scholars to the university, both as colleagues and collaborators from other institutions. Key areas of specialty are: the global north, climate change, water stewardship, inner-city issues and research and public policy initiatives associated with sustainability.
• The building will also house several of the university’s community learning initiatives. The model school admits approximately 25 neighbourhood high school students annually. They receive individualized learning plans to help them reach their full potential. A new digital learning lab will provide space for high school students to do homework, use computers, experiment with new computer software, create digital art and video games and edit movies.
• Diversity Foods will operate a main floor licensed restaurant serving students (including those on meal plans at McFeetors Hall residence) faculty, staff and the general public.
Interesting and unique features of this building are the large stencils of periodic table symbols on the windows facing Portage and Langside; the inspiring atrium with eight-foot to 12-foot high trees; giant skylights supported by customized steel trusses; an intriguing open and exposed stairway system; a spectacular feature wall with long cylindrical lighting tubes ,bringing attention to maple wood rectangular set pieces reclaimed from the Winnipeg Roller Rink; and exquisite use of an assortment of building materials throughout the entire complex (e.g., stone poxy flooring for rooms containing mice and rats).
The Science Complex even has a bat cave on the fourth floor — the university will be able to lay claim to having its own “bat man.”
A second-floor corner boardroom faces Portage Avenue with a view of West Broadway’s older homes and the Legislative Building in the distance.
The next floor up there is a new media learning lab dedicated to high school students as part of the University Of Winnipeg’s community outreach.
Exiting the facility from the rear, you realize the significant building on the site in comparison to other city blocks. There are only 139 parking stalls (no underground parking), which has a lot to do with the fact that the University of Winnipeg is a major transit hub with 56 bus routes. The remainder of the site has the new LEED Silver McFeetors Hall: Great-West Life Student Residence, which is a home for 176 students plus 25 student families in townhouse-style units.
Running alongside and behind it is the University of Winnipeg Student Association’s day-care centre which is another addition to the university’s expanded western campus footprint.
“Based on the primary tenant being students and the location’s outstanding access to public transportation, you have to give credit to the University of Winnipeg for taking full advantage of maximizing the use of this city block,” said Tom Derrett, chair of the Commercial Division of WinnipegREALTORS®. “It goes without saying that our commercial REALTORS® look forward to seeing the new Science Complex when it is completed this spring.”
Undoubtedly, Dr. Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg, will be busy moving ahead on other projects, such as the conversion of the facilities that formerly housed the courses and programs that will now be offered in the new Science Complex.
At HOP’s 1998 official opening at the first home it reclaimed on Alverstone (would eventually move well into the Spence neighbourhood as part of its West End acquisition and revitalization efforts), then federal minister Axworthy presiding over the awarding of a three-year $500,000 Winnipeg Development Agreement to help kick-start the new neighbourhood revitalization and home ownership initiative.
HOP always knew it could help make a difference in renewing Winnipeg’s West End, including the Spence neighbourhood area. However, it never realized its positive change would eventually be complemented by Dr. Axworthy’s ambitious plans to renew the University of Winnpeg’s inner-city campus, where he was a student and began his teaching career at the Institute of Urban Studies.