MUN sorting out vision for Battery Hotel

Public consultations will collect input on how to use unclaimed space

Published on April 16, 2014
The former Battery Hotel in St. John’s is undergoing renovations. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/ The Telegram

Work is still in the early stages when it comes to transforming the former Battery Hotel into office space and a student residence for Memorial University, but the public will get the chance to learn about the preliminary vision for it and offer their thoughts.

An architecture company was selected last fall to work on conceptual planning for the St. John’s landmark. That company has since worked with the Battery executive management committee and its prospective tenants to address what those groups will need from the building.

According to Rob Greenwood — lead for the Battery redevelopment project through his role as the executive director for MUN’s office of public engagement — maintenance work has been ongoing for quite some time, but serious redevelopment work will not happen until after the vision for the building is finalized.

Greenwood expects an announcement will be made soon about what MUN has decided to do with respect to office space, student accommodations and the process for public consultations on how other areas should be used.

“So the vision is exactly that — it’s the vision,” said Greenwood. “It’s not a detailed architectural rendering with blueprints, but it’s clear enough for us now, for example ... to rip the windows out of the office tower and replace them, because we knew that had to be done, and we know that the office tower is going to stay relatively the way it is.”

News broke in the fall of 2012 that MUN was purchasing the former Battery Hotel. The Harris Centre, Genesis Centre, Gardiner Centre and MUN’s office of public engagement are all set to use office space in the building, and graduate students will make use of former hotel rooms. The Battery operated with 127 hotel rooms.

How the entire building will be used has not been set in stone.

“Half the battle for us now is communicating clearly what we are definitely doing, because we know we’re putting those four units up there. We know we’re putting graduate students there. We know we’re going to have the public engagement space,” said Greenwood.

“But we want input on how can we best use that space, who wants to partner and enter the space that isn’t allocated yet. It’s for public engagement, so we’re clear on how it has to link with the academic mission of the university —  teaching and learning, research, outreach — but there’s all kinds of innovative ways of doing that.”

Other community stakeholders have been given the opportunity to offer input on MUN’s reuse of the building, including the City of St. John’s, the St. John’s Board of Trade, Happy City St. John’s, and both provincial and federal government representatives.

The architecture company presented an initial concept earlier this year. Facilities management staff at MUN looked at that concept to verify whether those ideas were in fact capable of being realized within the structure, with subsequent meetings and correspondence leading to the creation of a new visioning plan.

“I think what we’re doing at Memorial is groundbreaking,” said Greenwood, speaking of efforts to engage the public and other entities in the planning process for repurposing the Battery Hotel.

He also expects the site will have a big role to play in serving MUN’s Grenfell Campus and Labrador Institute.

Greenwood said a clearer picture for when tenants will move into the building will be known once detailed architectural renderings based on the vision for the site are completed.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew