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Anvil Centre takes shape

Vali Marling, Anvil Centre’s general manager, is joined by Blair Fryer, the city’s communications and economic development manager and Ralph Heard of PCL Construction in the theatre of the Anvil Centre during a tour of the facility on Friday. - Rob Newell/Black Press
Vali Marling, Anvil Centre’s general manager, is joined by Blair Fryer, the city’s communications and economic development manager and Ralph Heard of PCL Construction in the theatre of the Anvil Centre during a tour of the facility on Friday.
— image credit: Rob Newell/Black Press

As Christmas approaches, the atrium of Downtown New Westminster’s Anvil Centre is a concrete canyon flanked by glass, girders and grand staircases.

It’s filled with construction equipment and scaffolding as hard-hatted workers scurry around the site in their steel-toed boots.

It isn’t quite Santa’s workshop at Eighth and Columbia, although the weather had a North-Pole feel to it as local media toured the site Friday. However, it will be another six months or so before it is unwrapped for everyone to see and use.

Although it’s bare bones right now, the “Wow Factor” seems to be already there.

At the main entrance, running from the front of the building to the back is an area that’s been nicknamed “the canyon” for the way the narrow opening soars 60 feet and has a wall on one side and three cylindrical columns on the other that all lean at an 11-degree angle.

It wasn’t yet visible on the tour, but once complete, there will be a skylight at the top that will fill the area with natural light.

Bringing the outside in has always been a talking point when the city has discussed the design of the Anvil Centre.

And to that end, the front of the building features four floors of glass facing a southern exposure that leaves the entrance awash in natural light, and offers an up-close look at what’s happening on Columbia Street.

Still to come is the Carrara marble which will cover the atrium floor and the staircases.

The main floor will hold the centre’s 10,000-square-foot convention space that can accommodate up to 725 for a conference or 500 for a banquet. It can also be subdivided into six smaller spaces.

View a Flickr photo set from the tour

Vali Marling, the Anvil’s recently appointed general manager, and Heidi Hughes, sales and marketing manager, say they’ve already been busy booking events for 2014, including inquiries for weddings from across the province and even some from outside B.C.

Hughes said the conference centre will be marketed for its ability to accommodate mid-sized conferences in a scenic setting at prices lower than Vancouver.

“The rates will be reflective of not being in Downtown Vancouver, but they are also reflective of an amazing technological structure,” said Hughes.

Hughes sees the Anvil’s competition being Robson Square, the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford hotel in Surrey and the Vancouver Convention Centre. Although those facilities are able to handle small conventions they tend to get lost in the big city.

“It’s tailor-made for their size of events,” said Hughes of the Anvil Centre.

They’ll concentrate on targeting regional conferences because of New Westminster’s central location, reasonable parking rates and nearby SkyTrain stations.

“We can create that memorable experience that can’t be found anywhere else on the Lower Mainland,” said Hughes.

The Anvil’s gem, however, just might be the theatre on the third and fourth levels, which will seat up to 364 depending on its configuration.

Although it’s quite cavernous and far from finished, there’s a noticeable quiet that descends upon entering the theatre, thanks to the soundproofing.

The theatre has the added bonus of being connected technologically to the conference centre, to allow events inside to be broadcast in other areas of the building and vice versa. Its retractable seats—which Terry Atherton, the city’s manager of civic buildings, assured will be very comfortable—can also be easily cleared away to accommodate a conference or banquet for 350.

“It’ll be amazing to animate the space for the opening,” said Hughes. “It will be David Copperfield-type stuff.”

Around the other side of the theatre is the space for the art gallery, including a temporary one that can be customized to suit the subject of a conference.

“Our conference clients are really excited about this,” said Marling.

The city’s museum and archives and the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame are also moving into the new digs.

Hughes said Friday’s media tour, and one earlier in the day for city council, were organized because there was a need to let the community know how the project was coming along. She said they’ll be reaching out to the community for more ideas on the centre’s future use, and for the opening.

Construction is also continuing above the Anvil Centre on eight floors and a penthouse level of office space, totalling 137,000 sq. ft. Reporters were taken to the open-air ninth floor where spectacular views of the Fraser River, from the Coast Mountains

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