Fanshawe’s future pulses with historic heartbeat

The countdown is on to completion of Fanshawe College’s new $66-million downtown London building, the second at its downtown campus, on the site of the historic former Kingsmill’s department store.

But don’t think old is out.

Instead, the Dundas Street building — which will house the school’s information technology, tourism, hospitality and culinary programs starting a year from now — combines the best of new with a historic heart - lfpress said.

The Free Press was given an tour of the building, as Fanshawe prepares to mark its 50th anniversary this weekend.

“There’s a lot of history that’s being retained through this,” said Peter Gilbert, Fanshawe’s chief infrastructure officer.

“We needed to start from scratch on the inside, but wanted to maintain as much of the outside as we could.”

With seven months of work left on the six-storey school, old Kingsmill’s relics pulled from the store are ready to be reborn.

Its vintage elevator cab will become a trendy change room for Fanshawe’s ground-floor retail space.

The pneumatic paper-delivery tube system once used in the store will become a working showpiece in the new atrium.

And the Kingsmill’s facade, its yellow bricks and gilded Art Deco-inspired entrance, will welcome students instead of shoppers.

“It’s a fun challenge for sure,” said Kevin Stewart, project manager with construction giant EllisDon.

“From the front, people will see a replication of what was here before, but inside will be transformed.”

Together with Fanshawe’s new digital arts building across the street, the new site will bring roughly 2,000 college students downtown. They are expected not only to boost area businesses, but also to shape the colour and feel of that stretch of Dundas Street.

On schedule, work crews are expected to hand over the keys to the 10,700sq.m school in mid-

April. Fanshawe staff will settle in over the summer while some finishing touches are added to the space.

And what a space it will be.

The first-floor atrium will blend the old Kingsmill’s feel with modern twists: reclaimed yellow brick, together with a living plant wall up to the second floor. There will be through access to Carling Street and a small retail shop, both nods to the old Kingsmill’s.

Fanshawe will move its student-operated restaurant, Saffron’s, from its Oxford Street campus to the new building, too, changing the name and adding a streetside patio.

The second floor, mostly dedicated to classroom and computer lab space, also will house a demonstration kitchen.

But Stewart said it’s all eyes on the third and fourth floors now and all hands on deck to get them finished.

The third storey will house the school’s bakery, pastry kitchen and cooking lab.

On the floor above, three outdoor terraces, a bartending kitchen and more classroom space are all technical builds that take time to complete.

“We’re starting with the worst floor in terms of workload,” said Stewart. “Trying to get the worst parts done first.”

Classroom space and faculty offices with impressive downtown views round out the fifth and sixth floors.

Family-owned Kingsmill’s, which was older than Canada itself, closed in 2014.

Except for the facade, the old building was demolished and construction begun on the new one in the fall of 2016. Through it all, Gilbert said Fanshawe is keeping the Kingsmill family in the loop as the major redevelopment unfolds.

They’ve liked what they’ve seen so far, said Gilbert.

“They’re just thrilled. They think the Kingsmill name is being respected,” he said. “They basically poured their lives into this building, so they really appreciate what’s being done here.”

Read more news of London here.

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