UWindsor's $60M downtown creative arts school officially opens

Thursday, March 22, 2018

CBC News




Work on the University of Windsor's two new $60-million creative arts buildings in downtown Windsor has finally wrapped up.

With the lobby of the completely-redesigned Armouries Building named Veterans Hall, the baton has been officially passed to the university. The Essex-Kent Scottish Regiment was the previous owner, with the building dating back to 1900.

Now, much of the historical heritage has been preserved for the School of Creative Arts. Musicians can practice their craft while glancing up at the restored vaulted ceilings.

Architects even created a basement in the building where there wasn't one before.

Approximately 500 students and faculty occupy the open-concept space, which opened to them in January. Everyone from musicians, to performing artists, to photographers fill the 66,000-square-foot building.

Project was over budget

All of it cost about $60 million. The City of Windsor provided $10 million, while the province chipped in $15 million.

President Alan Wildeman said the overall project was over budget, but couldn't say by exactly how much.

"It wasn't wildly out of the scope that we thought it would be. These are complicated buildings, our architects knew it. They knew it would be complicated and we built in some allowances in for that," said Wildeman.

Old Tunnel Bar-B-Q transformed

Just steps away, the old Tunnel Bar-B-Q was redeveloped into even more arts space.

Named Freedom Way, the building houses film production studios, editing suites, a sonic art studio and space for sculpture, metal and woodworking.

The legendary restaurant's founding family was in attendance to witness the ribbon-cutting for what once was a barbecue staple in Windsor for 73 years.

"It's a huge change. Every time we walk somewhere it's like okay now we'd be standing by the garbage dumpster, over there we were standing in dad's office," said Helena Ventrella, daughter of owner Thom Racovitis.

Racovitis received a terminal diagnosis and that caused him to look at selling the restaurant's location. Racovitis died in January, 2015.

"It's surreal. But it's a good feeling and I know that he's smiling down on everything," said wife Marilyn Racovitis.