Better late than never.
A year after the originally proposed completion date, the L.R. Wilson Hall building is set to open in September 2016. When the project was announced, McMaster University said the building would open in September 2015. Despite the delay, the building is on budget for $55.5 million.
Ground was officially broken for the building on May 31, 2013, but a variety of factors led to a 12-month delay.
“[Wilson Hall] is probably one of the most complex and complicated construction projects the university has undertaken because the building itself is comprised of a number of unique pieces within it,” said Gord Arbeau, Director of Communications at McMaster.
The list of Wilson Hall features is impressive: it will house lecture theatres, classrooms, interactive teaching spaces, research centres, the McMaster Indigenous Studies program offices, a 350-seat professional concert hall, a black box theatre for a variety of performances, and underground parking.
“All of that under one roof is a very complicated and complex project,” Arbeau said of the building that will be shared by the social science and humanities faculties.
The main issue happened when the construction crew went below the surface.
“The water table was higher than we had thought. The 400-seat lecture hall is actually 50 feet below surface at its deepest point so that’s a complicated construction process to build that piece of it. The delay is really around those issues,” Arbeau said.
Weather also played a factor in the delay. The winter of 2014 was so cold on some days Arbeau says that they had to cease operations as some construction actions could not be completed.
Come September and the return of students, Wilson Hall will open its doors for classes. It may not be completely ready for much more than teaching and learning, though.
“Our goal is to have [the building] fully operational. What might happen over the course of the month of September, we might have some faculty and some administrative staff moving in over the course of that as opposed to being for the first day of classes,” Arbeau said.
Arbeau reiterated that teaching and learning space would be operational for students and getting those rooms ready was the “priority.”
The five-floor building is going to be the headquarters for liberal arts students, housing staff from the humanities and social sciences faculties. Wilson Hall, named after McMaster chancellor Lynton (Red) Wilson and his $10 million donation, is 62,000 square feet in size. There will also be a student lounge for humanities and social science students among other amenities.
It is a welcome addition to campus. University enrolment has risen 5.1% from 2010 to 2015 and the squeeze on campus space has become more significant with each passing year. Part of the building’s creation can be credited to work done years ago. There was a letter-writing campaign in 2010-11, led by then-MSU Vice-President (Education) Joe Finkle, where students wrote about the need for a space dedicated to liberal arts students on campus. McMaster expects to host a walkthrough opening event for Wilson Hall in September, with dates set to be determined.
With Wilson Hall nearing completion, the university looks ahead to its next major construction project: the Living and Learning Centre. While the LLC is similar in that it is a complex and multi-purpose building, the university said they do not anticipate any delays.
There will be “activity” in the construction area over the next few months.