Tett Centre construction update - March 6, 2014

Steel decking on west roof slope

The renovation and rejuvenation of The J K Tett Arts Complex has been in progress for many years. The City of Kingston purchased the circa 1820’s site in 1971 at the urging of John K. Tett, then the Director of Parks and Recreation. Decades ahead of his time, Tett envisioned the former brewery and distillery as a community arts complex. Fittingly, though unofficially, the complex took on his name. The current operators have dropped the initials, choosing to honour both the man behind the original idea, and the local traditions that have been established over the past four decades of use by a wide variety of arts organizations. To many Kingstonians the building will always be simply “The Tett”.

Over time the three buildings that made up the complex, the JK Tett, the Stella Buck, and ‘the stables’, fell into disrepair, and the City had to make a decision about the site’s future. After consultation, the City and Queen’s University decided to partner and create the ‘arts hub’ that is currently under construction. While Queen’s opted to incorporate the original Stella Buck building into a large new academic structure housing a unique recital hall, classrooms, a black box theatre and film screening room, the City decided to retain and renovate the original limestone malting building to provide a wide variety of studio spaces for the previously dispalced Tett tenants and similar non-profit arts groups.

Redeveloping The Tett

The first step in the process of redeveloping The Tett was to find temporary accommodation for existing tenants. Space was found for the majority in other City owned buildings. Once the building was empty, the interior was gutted and a thorough evaluation undertaken to obtain information about the condition of the building andinform the design process. Working with architects Colbourne and Kembel, City staff and the returning tenants cooperated through the design processes to develop a practical and creative scheme for this old but valued industrial building. With an interior aesthetic best described as ‘industrial chic’ the building will be flexible, functional, and dramatic. Original limestone walls have been retained and will be exposed throughout the building, the concrete floors from 1920 will be refurbished,, ceilings will be kept open to maximize height and light, and exposed mechanical and electrical services will be exposed but painted out to match the ceiling. Many original windows have been restored and replicas heritage windows will be added added where necessary. Three levels of tenant suites will line the single loaded corridors, with large studio windows allowing visitors to observe interior studio activities and natural light to fill the workshops.

To accommodate contemporary seismic standards, the entire roof has been removed and replaced with a shaped steel trusses that provide additional headroom to allow dancers from the Kingston School of Dance to leap and twirl without danger, and the Modern Fuel Artist Run Gallery to display tall sculptures. At the south end of the building the new roof line will recreate the original malting tower form, a pyramid like structure where hops and other grains were dried and slow roasted for the beers and spirits distilled on site. The area underneath the tower will become an event room with a soaring ceiling with dramatic natural light and framed vistas over the Kingston Harbour and west to Lake Ontario. The City is now well into the last half of construction with the general contractor and subtrades working cooperatively to complete the project for occupancy in late August of Watch this site for construction updates, links to web cams, and other exciting news.