Construction of Archives of Ontario gets underway

An official groundbreaking ceremony took place yesterday at York’s Keele campus to mark the start of construction for the new home of the Archives of Ontario at York University.

The new building on York’s Keele campus is a part of a larger project that will link two significant provincial infrastructure investments – the other being the extension of the Spadina line  to York – into a single project, as well as expanding and connecting to the existing York Lanes building.

"Today’s ceremony takes us a step closer to providing a first-class home for the Archives of Ontario within the heart of an expanding GTA," said York University President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. "This new ‘green’ building is a perfect complement to York’s academic mission through the addition of much-needed research and academic space."

Right: Ontario Minister of Government Services Gerry Phillips looks on while Lorna R. Marsden, York president & vice-chancellor, talks about construction of the new Archives of Ontario building at the Keele campus

The new Archives of Ontario will be an integrated, multi-use three-storey podium building picking up on the scale of York’s inner core buildings. It will contain the archives and an expansion of existing retail space, as well as incorporate access to the new subway. A six-storey research tower, which will be set back on the podium, will be designated as academic and research space.

Ontario Minister of Government Services Gerry Phillips was on hand to participate in the sod turning. "By partnering with a leading North American university, this new, world class facility is a major step forward to protect our province’s heritage," Phillips said. "With the expansion of the subway line, the new building will make the Archives even more accessible to the public."

Above: The official start to construction is marked by a sod turning ceremony. Handling shovel duty are officials from York University, the Government of Ontario and the Archives of Ontario

The new building, about 96,000 square feet in size and located in the heart of the Keele campus, will increase the current public reference area by 75 per cent. The new, self-contained facility will meet international archival standards and make it easier to showcase some of the Archives’ most valuable collections.

The archives themselves require secure and environmentally sensitive vaults to keep them in their optimum state. As such, the archives design will meet LEED Silver Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System) specifications, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance "green" buildings.

Above: Phillips addresses guests at the sod turning ceremony. A billboard depicting the new Archives of Ontario building stands adjacent to Phillips.

"This entire project is unique and forward-thinking in both its design and sustainability," said Gary Brewer, York University’s vice-president of finance and administration. "Having secured an independent consortium through an independent procurement process ensures a no-risk financial option for York to build the Archives facility. At the same time, York is demonstrating an ahead-of-the-curve vision when it comes to future development of public transit and expanded academic possibilities for our University."

"This new facility will protect Ontario’s documentary history for generations to come," said Miriam McTiernan, archivist of Ontario.

The Archives of Ontario is the largest provincial archives in Canada, with a collection valued at more than $400 million. It is responsible for preserving the documentary history of the province and is an important source of research for the police, courts, historians and genealogists.

The estimated cost of the entire project will be $100 million. The new Archives of Ontario project is scheduled to be completed in March 2009, which coincides with York’s 50th anniversary.