After badly-needed renovations closed its doors for two years, the University of Regina’s historic College Building is open once again.
School and government officials gathered there on Friday morning to celebrate.
The facelift included new stairs, hallways and new additions to the building. Heating and cooling systems were upgraded to improve energy efficiency and classrooms were outfitted with new technology for tasks like video conferences.
The $63.6-million project was undertaken to modernize the nearly 110-year-old building while preserving its heritage elements.
“I’m thrilled for our students. That’s who I’m really excited about. They get to enjoy this beautiful historical building but have modern technology,” U of R president Vianne Timmons said.
“They used to have to wear toques in the winter and it was so hot in the summer we sometimes had to send people home.”
College Building will house the university’s Centre for Continuing Education, Conservatory of Performing Arts and the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. More than 8,000 students will use the building.
According to Timmons, there was a real chance it could have been demolished.
“We had sections that were closed off and if you had come in the building, you could see that the stairs were actually crumbling,” she said.
“I was told ‘We don’t need these historical buildings, why don’t you tear them down? Why don’t you sell them to someone for a dollar?’ I was told you will never get this project off the ground, it will never happen.”
The federal government provided $28.7 million to the project from the Strategic Investment Fund, an infrastructure program for post-secondary institutions across the country. As well, the City of Regina donated 2.6 acres of land.
Another $25 million came from private and in-kind donations, including $8.25 million from Conexus Credit Union, for a plan to renew the school’s College Avenue campus.
Fixing up College Building is only the first phase of that plan.
Phase two includes fundraising $3 million to restore the performing arts facility, Darke Hall.
“I believe that Darke Hall will be Canada’s Massey Hall. It will be magnificent. It is magnificent,” Timmons said. “Stay tuned — 2020, let’s be standing here celebrating the grand opening of Darke Hall.”
Mayor Michael Fougere called the university and its original campus a “pillar” to the city’s character. He said the project fits into revitalizing the College Avenue corridor.