A 3,600-square foot, two-storey addition to Acadia’s Alumni Hall will change the look of the building, but will retain the integrity of the former President’s House.
Acadia has applied for a development agreement to complete the improvements to Alumni Hall, which will become the Wu Welcome Centre thanks to a $1.5 million donation from the children of Hong Kong businessman Dr. Jieh Yee Wu, for whom the Wu Wing in Acadia’s Vaughan Memorial Library is also named.
Three of Dr. Wu’s children - Lily (1963), Doris (1964) and Timothy (1966), as well as Lily’s husband, Dr. Andre Lau (1961) - are all Acadia graduates.
According to information circulated at a Jan. 15 public information meeting, the proposed expansion “is intended to serve as the point of entry to campus for prospective students and parents as well as alumni and special guests.”
Wolfville town planner Chrystal Fuller said the development process is still in its early stages.
The property is currently zoned I-2, an institutional zoning “appropriate to a university setting, and allowing for a variety of uses,” Fuller said. No change in zoning would be required for the addition Acadia has in mind.
Troy Scott of T.A. Scott Architects + Design in Dartmouth has been hired as consulting architect for the project. He, in turn, has engaged Brian Desloges of Kentville as landscape architect.
Scott said the plan was to “retain the symmetry of the Georgian style” of the existing building, with the addition to the rear mimicking that style.
“The university and the town have a certain aesthetic we want to retain,” he said.
The front view from Main Street looking north will not change, other than “some lowering of the grade” in front of the house, changes to the front step and removal of the existing stone retaining wall next to the street.
The addition will butt on to the rear of the existing building, with some changes necessary to the existing east entrance.
The plan also calls for additional parking in the rear. The intention will be for the traffic flow to enter via the existing driveway and exit via the Theatre Festival parking lot.
The project will now go before the town’s Design Review Committee. A staff report will be prepared and a draft development agreement drawn up, which will then go to a public hearing.
“It’s a fairly lengthy process,” Fuller said, “with lots of opportunity for public input.”
Acadia’s Director of Facilities, Marcel Falkenham, said the project has been on the books for about 20 years.
“Our guiding principle,” he said, “is for this addition to do nothing to take away from the existing structure,” but rather, enhance it.
The addition will include a large welcome centre and assembly space on the ground floor, and office space and meeting rooms on the second floor. A pergola and plaza, suitable for outdoor events, will be added to the west side, facing the football field.
Falkenham said there are some concerns with the existing building, including a sunroom on the west side, which will be addressed by the addition.
Concerns expressed by those in attendance included retaining the historical integrity of the circa 1851 building, parking, pedestrian access and whether tourists might be confused by a second ‘welcome centre’, separate from that in Willow Park.
John Whidden suggested the building “has significance historically,” although it’s not municipally or provincially registered.
“Given the tail will be bigger than the dog (the addition will be larger than the existing building), you’ve done as good a job as one could hope for,” he said.
Public input can be given to Fuller by phone at 542-8842 or email at email@example.com.