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Design team sought for new Massey

New Westminster city manager Lisa Spitale -
New Westminster city manager Lisa Spitale
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New Westminster has begun the process of building a new Massey Theatre.

Bids will close this week on finding a firm to figure out what the requirements for the facility will be. The city has committed $10.7 million toward the project, with another $10 million expected to come from the provincial government as part of building a replacement for New Westminster secondary.

Once the consulting firm has nailed down what’s required at the Massey, that information will be forwarded as part of the package being reviewed by the Ministry of Education as funds replacement of NWSS.

That package has to include the theatre’s functional requirements and its performance specifications, according to schools project coordinator Jim Alkins.

“They need a team to do that,” said Alkins. “We could do it for [the city], but they’re going to use it as a community theatre so we thought it would be beneficial for them to do it to meet their requirements.”

In calling for proposals, the city wants an architectural firm that can assemble a design team with proven expertise in theatre design, urban design and school site planning.

“We really need to outline what our requirements are, so that’s what we’re working on,” said city manager Lisa Spitale.

When the deal was struck for the Massey in 2010, the province’s Neighbourhoods of Learning initiative was willing to cover the cost of 150 seats. The ministry’s base funding for the school theatre would cover 500 seats and the city decided to pay for 350 seats for a capacity of 1,000. The current Massey seats 1,200.

A new NWSS will be the third component of the district’s schools project.

Qayqayt elementary is currently being built at Royal Avenue and Merivale Street, the former St. Mary’s Hospital site, and is expected to open for kindergarten to Grade 5 in September. Many of the students will come from John Robson elementary, which will be torn down to make room for a new middle school, which aims to open the following September. Following this, the new high school, including a new Massey, can be constructed.

The team being sought for the Massey consultation will work with the arts community, parents and the school, including NWSS’s music and drama departments. Spitale said the complex, specialized requirements will provide both clarity for the project and enough flexibility so the designers can use their own ingenuity in creating the theatre.

If the province gives the go-ahead, a shortlist of three companies will be chosen for the design-build process.

Alkins said a timeline has not been finalized for presenting the high school/Massey project to the province.

“We’re still working to obtain the final approval for the project,” said Alkins, who noted the district remains unsure about where it can build the new school on the NWSS site. “We will do some more evaluation of the site conditions to clarify the sense of risks of where we’re going to build.”

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