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Education Ontario announces $27-million for rebuild of Toronto’s OCAD University

Preliminary conceptualization of OCAD University’s Creative City Campus project at 115 McCaul St. in Toronto.

Bortolotto Architects

The province will direct $27-million toward a rebuilding of OCAD University's downtown Toronto campus that would give the institution long-awaited upgrades to its facilities and a new and improved public face.

The new funding was announced Tuesday by Reza Moridi, Ontario's Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. It will go toward the cost of what the university calls its Creative City Campus project. This is a series of additions, renovations and expansions to the complex of buildings along McCaul Street, next to the Art Gallery of Ontario, that houses most of the university.

The initiative, with a budget of roughly $60-million in total, will add 55,000 square feet of new area and make improvements to 94,700 square feet of existing space, with a focus on studios and social spaces for students.

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It is the biggest set of changes to the campus since the school's Sharp Centre for Design – the dramatic box-on-stilts by British architect Will Alsop – transformed the campus in 2004.

In interviews Monday, both the minister and the university's president, Sara Diamond, stressed the civic character of the project. "This is going to be quite something for not only the university, but quite significant for the city of Toronto," Mr. Moridi said. "The area is going to be transformed by this."

The largest component will be a renovation and addition to the building at 100 McCaul St., an undistinguished modernist slab built in 1957 that "has long needed an upgrade" of its mechanical systems and spaces, Ms. Diamond said. About 55,000 square feet will be added to this building, while the adjacent 1920 Reid Building, which faces Grange Park, will be renovated to open up to the green space. (The park itself, which is owned by the AGO, is getting a redesign now.) OCAD University has not yet hired architects to start a detailed design for 100 McCaul.

Another visible element of the project will be the Centre for Experiential Learning, at the corner of Dundas and McCaul streets. This project, announced last year, will be redesigned by Toronto architectural firm Bortolotto with a curtain-like form along its main facades. It will be a signal project for the university, Ms. Diamond said, "a visible signal of the contribution we make to the city."

The university will also modernize and expand its library, located inside a shopping mall office and retail complex on McCaul Street, and relocate its Indigenous Visual Culture Centre into the Sharp Centre.

Ms. Diamond has been advocating for aspects of this vision for nearly a decade. This week's announcement is "a tremendous boost for our institution," she said in an interview.

The university's ongoing capital campaign will help support these new projects. OCAD U has yet to raise approximately $15-million toward the plan, Ms. Diamond said.

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"We are a commuter campus," she said. "This move will provide collaborative space for students to work together and to make the campus a second home. That's something our students have wanted for a long time."

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