Question: Will the construction at Barnett House never end? What is the new space going to be used for and how much is this going to cost members?
Answer: A substantial expansion of Barnett House and its parkade is on track for completion in May, on schedule and in accordance with the approved final budget. This does not mean, however, that we will be seeing the end of work at the site. Finishing the parkade will require a week of fine weather above freezing to allow the installation of a cement finishing coat, membrane and asphalt on the third level. The way this winter and spring have gone, I am wondering if we will be waiting for August before the big freeze lifts. Seriously, we believe the parkade will be completed in early June.
The eight-storey addition to Seymour Tower (the tall part of Barnett House) is now fully enclosed. May will see the
completion of work on the basement, the auditorium, the fourth and eighth floors, and part of the seventh floor.
Unfortunately, that will not mean that the whole project will be entirely completed by then. Over the summer, renovation work will continue on the existing second and eighth floors. Substantial work also remains to be done in the spaces that will be occupied by our major tenant, the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF).
At the end of all this, the Association will be able to accommodate the increased staff complement necessary to provide service to a greatly expanding teacher population in space that is comfortable and efficient but in no way extravagant. In the auditorium and on the second floor, event space will be restored and expanded for use by members and for rent to non-ATA users.
Initiating this project during a recession greatly helped us to contain costs. The total to be expended on expanding Barnett House Seymour Tower will be about $16 million, what was originally budgeted. Due to engineering complications, the cost of expanding the parkade was higher than was hoped when the project was first contemplated, but it will be in line with final estimates at $5.84 million. There will be additional costs relating to tenant capital improvements, but these will be recovered in the form of rent over the course of the lease with ATRF. The cost of the entire project will be in the range of $26 million.
It is important to remember that the need for expanding Barnett House was driven to a substantial degree by the need to provide additional space to ATRF — a tenant that generates substantial revenues that would otherwise have to come through member fees. Given restrictions on the use of Barnett House, it would have been very difficult indeed to find a suitable replacement tenant.
So the bottom line is that the renovation and expansion are proceeding on schedule and, once they are completed, Barnett House will be an enhanced asset for members. Kudos are due to the Provincial Executive Council Committee on Barnett House Renovation and Expansion and to PCL for its superb management of this project. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at email@example.com.