End in sight for music building construction
It’s been a little over a year since ground was broken for the construction of the new Savvas
Chamberlain Music Building, and now we’re in the home stretch.
The plans for the renovations were first announced in fall 2019 at the launch of the Making
Space for Music fundraising campaign, which initially aimed to raise $14 million. Since then,
Wilfrid Laurier University has received various donations, including $4 million from the Savvas
Chamberlain Family Foundation, prompting the renaming of the building to the Savvas
Chamberlain Music Building.
Initial plans for the renovations include two new floors of practice rooms, a spacious lobby and
an improved entranceway from University Ave. Students can expect to see these changes as well
as an outdoor amphitheatre for events and concerts.
Unfortunately, the project has faced some hiccups along the way. Ulrike Gross, assistant vice
president of facilities and asset management, explained some of the delays to provide clarity:
“We’ve had everything from supply shortages to escalating costs of materials, during and post
pandemic, and so that’s been fairly challenging for us from a cost management perspective”.
Gross estimates the total cost of the project at around $26 million but is confident in the quality
of work completed. “We’ve added a little bit to the scope of the project in order to make it better
all the way around”, clarified Gross.
She also explained other upgrades that have been made, including fully revamping the building’s
wireless internet and providing an entranceway to campus from University Avenue made in
partnership with the City of Waterloo.
Cynthia Johnston Turner, dean of the faculty of music, also shared excitement about the ongoing
renovations: “I think I’m most looking forward to the students’ reaction. It’s the students that
have been here”, said Turner.
Turner’s excitement extends to the upgraded designs and facilities, including “gorgeous” practice
rooms, outdoor speakers and art donated by Salah Bachir and his husband Jacob Yerex.
Both Gross and Turner estimate the construction’s completion at over 60 per cent. Students can
expect practice rooms to open August 15, and according to Gross and Turner, construction to be
completed in January 2024 with a small-scale opening.
While the university is excited about the ongoing renovations, some students have expressed
concerns about the work being done. When asked about the construction, one fourth year music
student shared thoughts on the timing of the project, stating “as a person coming off of COVID
and not really being able to do anything in person, all of a sudden they’re starting renovations”.
The student also voiced concern about the building’s accessibility during construction, as well as
about incoming students having to adjust to the new system. They expressed a desire for more
detailed descriptions of practice rooms in the booking process and for the university to value
function over design.
Ahead of the building’s opening, Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies will be performing at a
benefit concert on October 29 to raise funds for the renovations. He’ll be performing with his son
Isaac Page, the Penderecki String Quartet, and clarinetist James Campbell.