National Arts Centre officially breaks ground on 'rejuvenation'

Michael Woods
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The National Arts Centre officially broke ground on a major face lift Tuesday, kicking off a renovation that’s due to be finished in time for July 1, 2017 – Canada's 150th birthday.

The NAC held an official groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning to mark the beginning of an architectural rejuvenation. The grand opening is set for Canada Day 2017.

The $110-million architectural rejuvenation will include a dazzling new entrance on Elgin Street that will change the face of Confederation Square.

“I really believe that by shifting the entrance to Elgin, it will animate and energize this whole part of the downtown area,” NAC CEO Peter Herrndorf said in an interview. “I’ve seen it happen in other cities, and I think it will happen here."

The construction timeline is tight, but NAC brass are optimistic. Architects Diamond Schmitt and builders PCL Constructors say the work can be done on time and on budget.

“Both the architects and the construction firm believe that the key elements will be finished by July 1, and we’re going to hold them to it,” Mr. Herrndorf said. “This is not one of these deadlines that you can easily miss. … I think they understand the urgency.”

The previous Conservative government committed funding for the renovation. New Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said the government was pleased to fund the renewal project, which she called an “important face lift.”

Dignitaries at Tuesday's ceremony included U.S. ambassador Bruce Heyman and Mayor Jim Watson. The ceremony featured clips from a documentary about the NAC's grand opening in 1969, at which then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau spoke.

The signature element of the new addition is a so-called 'lantern' that will include digital projections showcasing performing arts from across the country.

“We really imagine the NAC as a luminous beacon for the arts for all of Ottawa, the national capital region and the nation as a whole,” architect Donald Schmitt said.

One issue with the lantern is the amount of corporate signage it will include. The matter was raised at the National Capital Commission's board meeting last month, when it approved the project.

But Mr. Herrndorf said that isn't a significant issue; corporate signage will be a very small part of the display.

"I’m fully confident that we’ll work out something very quickly with the National Capital Commission," he said.

This article originally appeared on on Feb. 9.

Organizations: National Arts Centre, National Capital Commission

Geographic location: Elgin Street, Confederation Square, U.S. Ottawa

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