Rooms landscaping project underway

Andrew Robinson
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Discussions ongoing to attract more private donors to $2.5-million endeavour

This is what the grounds of The Rooms will look like once a $2.5 million landscaping project is
completed. An outdoor amphitheatre, outdoor classroom space, and a redesigned route for
traffic will be amongst its new features. — Image courtesy  of The Rooms

Construction work is underway on Phase 1 of a landscaping project that will redevelop the grounds for one of the province’s largest cultural institutions.

A $2.5-million project for The Rooms that will be funded by private donors, will result in the creation of an amphitheatre, outdoor classroom space, benches, greenery, and new routes for moving traffic in and out of the St. John’s site.

Work commenced two weeks ago on Phase 1 of the project, according to Deanne Fisher, The Rooms’ director of marketing and development. She said there were some delays in starting that work, which was initially set to get underway in May or June.

“It’s always been a part of our long-term plan to extend out into our site in terms of beautifying the grounds, lending it to interpretation, marking the historical significance of the site, as well as providing opportunities for the community to use the space and also bringing some of our own programming out there.”

The project will also involve the demarkation of the star-shaped citadel of Fort Townshend. It will be marked by granite pavers as part of a lit pathway. In the 18th century, Fort Townshend served as a central component of the British defence network in St. John’s. The fort was abandoned in 1871.

The Grand Concourse Authority was hired by The Rooms Site Development Committee to create a site plan that was publicly unveiled in March.

Phase 1 work will redevelop traffic routes, allowing for the creation of a new lane that will prove convenient for school buses and tourist groups coming to visit The Rooms.

Beautification work will also begin this year.

Overflow parking lot redesigned

Under the new design, the overflow parking area will no longer be accessible from the main entrance off Bonaventure Avenue.

Instead, an island will be added to allow traffic to turn around if a vehicle drops someone off by the front entrance to The Rooms.

A gate was eventually erected across from the entrance to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s headquarters in order to prevent vehicles from using the route in front of The Rooms as a thoroughfare.

“It’s a parking lot, but people were sort of treating it as a street,” said Fisher.

There will be additional impaired mobility parking spaces, and an extra wheelchair ramp will be added to the east end of the building.

So far, the project has attracted $1.1 million in private donations. A $1 million donation came from an anonymous source, and frequent arts and culture benefactor Elinor Gill Ratcliffe made a $100,000 contribution to the project.

While construction work continues, visitors will not be able to drive up to the front of the building. The regular parking area and overflow parking off Harvey Road will remain accessible. Work is expected to continue into the early fall of 2013.

Fisher said The Rooms has been involved in discussions to secure the remaining funds through private donors.

She’s confident an appropriate donor will be found, noting The Rooms has in its history attracted $8 million in private donations for capital projects.

Fisher expects work on Phase 2 of the project will begin next


Organizations: The Rooms, Grand Concourse Authority, The Rooms Site Development Committee

Geographic location: Bonaventure Avenue, Harvey Road

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Recent comments

  • Rooms Membership Holder
    July 25, 2013 - 09:01

    So relieved to learn that mobility parking is being given attention. Many times I've wanted to visit or attend functions at The Rooms but the wind was blowing too much for me to safely walk to the building. I use a cane & the wheelchair ramp is presently too far from where I parked my car in Disability Parking area. I definitely need to hold onto a rail when the wind is so strong. I do not have the option of being dropped off. Although a membership holder to the Rooms, I cannot always take advantage of it unless I'm lucky enough to meet a stranger passing by & ask if I may take their arm to safety access the building. The same thing happens when leaving the building - have to wait for someone to come along to kindly assist me to my car. This should not have to happen.