Former Star building conversion launched by university

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello

The gutting of the former Windsor Star building has begun with workers busy Tuesday ripping out the interior to make way for the new University of Windsor’s school of social work.

Only the facade of the building at the corner of Pitt and Ferry streets will remain, with completion targeted for spring 2015.

The total cost of the project will be $32 million.

The new Social Work and Professional Education Centre (SWPEC) – which has more than 500 students, staff and faculty — represents the university’s initial entry into the city’s downtown core.

“The University of Windsor is creating new spaces where our students, faculty and staff can be engaged in innovative teaching, learning and discovery and where they can more effectively partner with local agencies in order to make an impact on our community,” said U of W president Alan Wildeman.

Two other projects will soon follow — the conversion of the former Major F.A. Tilston Armoury Building into a school of arts and creative innovation on University Avenue and the former Greyhound Bus depot across the street will be renovated for the film production program.

The project to rebuild the former Star building has been awarded to Toronto-based Buttcon Ltd.

The company was responsible for construction of the university’s Toldo Health Education Centre in 2003.

It has also constructed interior projects such as the Showtime Lounge and Nero’s Steakhouse inside Caesars Windsor. The company is currently working on heritage restorations to St. Michael’s Cathedral and St. Paul’s United Church in Toronto.

“Buttcon is thrilled to be back in Windsor,” said  president Peter Di Gaetano.

Work was originally expected to be launched in March, but removal of designated substances such as asbestos had to be completed through spring and summer under a separate contract in advance of the tender for the new building, said university spokeswoman Holly Ward.

Part of the attraction of taking over the building — which The Star occupied starting in 1923 — is providing a historic site for its students, she said.

“We are approaching the former Windsor Star building much like our other heritage buildings and make sure we preserve the historic aspect,” Ward said. “It’s not only an important landmark for Windsor, but will also be an inspiration for our students to be in such a historic site where so much has happened in Windsor.

“It reflects a sense of place — not only for the community, but also for the new memories that our students will create.”

The Star was actually three buildings joined together.

Under the project, the brick facade on Ferry Street of the 1918 apartment building on the south end will remain, with the floors removed and converted behind into a courtyard.

The limestone facade at Pitt and Ferry will remain with a new building constructed behind which is to include a three-storey atrium and rooftop terrace. The former press room, garages and warehouse structure on Pitt Street will be renovated into classrooms, offices and student lounge space.