Editor’s note: Based off initial information from the Winspear Centre’s website, this story originally stated the cost of the project is $80 million. However, the cost of the project is actually $65.6 million. The story has been updated to reflect the new information.
Construction will begin in the new year to expand the Winspear Centre in downtown Edmonton and it will include a second, smaller music hall being hailed as “the jewel of the addition.”
The $65.6-million Winspear Project will see what is now a surface parking lot at the back of the performance centre (on the west side of 97 Street between 102 and 102A avenues) transformed into a 45,000-square-foot mixed-use space.
It will feature a 550-seat flex-use midsize acoustic hall called the Music Box, a 64-space not-for-profit YMCA childcare centre, underground and surface-level parking, multi-functional spaces and commercial space.
The number of available parking spaces will increase by 30 to 40 spaces in the parkade, comprising of one indoor heated parking level below ground and one level at grade.
The Winspear said the expansion will also add community gathering spaces including a café and outdoor terrace, and interactive musical discovery zones.
New music hall
The Music Box is described as an intimate venue suited for a wide variety of events beyond performances, including conferences, rehearsals, galas, and meetings. (The existing Winspear Centre music hall has a capacity of up to 1,932 seats.)
The plan calls for state-of-the-art digital projection, lighting and audio resources, and a hydraulic seating system not currently available in the city.
The Winspear said the floor will have the ability to transform from flat floor, to raked (bleacher-style), to cabaret-style seating in minutes.
“This flexibility makes this space an ideal venue for smaller ensembles and community members to rent for their events,” the Winspear said.
The Winspear said the expansion will allow the building to be open to the public throughout the day for guests to attend events, enjoy the community and provide access to musical discovery, making it “truly an active centre for music, open and accessible every day.”
Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity
The plan would also see the expanded space become the home base for community programming offered through the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity and allow increased capacity for education, outreach and partnership with other arts organizations and business partners.
The Banks Centre offers a wide variety of programming for all people, including underserved youth studying orchestra and adults with Parkinson’s disease being mentored through a “jam session” by Edmonton Symphony Orchestra musicians.
Currently, the Centre is at capacity. The Winspear Project expansion will allow the The Banks Centre to double its current registrations and develop new programs.
Building the expansion also fulfills the city’s original requirements for the land. When originally built in the 1990s, the footprint of the Winspear was reduced in order to create a superb acoustical chamber for the ESO to perform in, leaving a parking lot at the back of the building.
The City of Edmonton agreed to lease this lot to the Winspear with a commitment to build on the space in the future.
Refurbishing the existing Winspear space
The Winspear Project includes a refresh of the existing space, which planners said may include replacement of the concert hall seats, updated carpets and furniture in the lobby spaces, refreshed bathrooms, new lobby access to passageways connecting the front of the building to the addition in the back and reconfigured administration offices.
Remediation work on the site, which was in the past a gas station, is already underway. The expansion construction is scheduled to begin in January 2020 and be complete in 2021. A grand opening will be held in 2022 to mark the Winspear’s 25th anniversary.
Funding for the project is coming from all levels of government. The combined government contribution is $48.6 million. The remaining $17 million will come from a community capital campaign.
The community capital campaign public fundraiser will be launched in spring of 2020.
The concert hall, known for its excellent acoustics, opened in 1997 and is named after philanthropist Dr. Francis G. Winspear.
In 1988, he donated $6 million towards construction — which, according to the Winspear, was the largest single private donation to a performing arts facility in Canadian history at the time. (The donation would be $11.48 million in 2019 dollars, according to the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator.)
WATCH: To mark 20 years at Winspear Centre, the late Tommy Banks sat down with our Quinn Ohler
— With files from Slav Kornik, Global News