As the final few tiles of an intricate star blanket design are installed on the floor of the cultural gathering space, work on the new wing of the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health draws to a close.
Once completed, the 2,322-square-metre expansion will be open for business as Canada’s first national centre of excellence in Aboriginal health.
First announced in October 2010, work on the expansion got underway in May 2011. The new space includes the cultural gathering space, which is large enough to accommodate 500 people, new clinics, a maternal wellness centre, youth programming and two social enterprise training centres.
As the work nears completion, spokeswoman Carlie Chase said excitement is building at the Wabano Centre.
“There were tears the first time I saw it,” Chase said. “I am just now capable of not being emotional. To think this vision is actually coming to fruition is amazing.”
Chase proudly showed off the new building as well as some of the changes taking place to the older, existing building.
“There were a lot of big milestones to get to this point where we are moving in and setting up,” Chase said. “But for me, I think the tiles really are the one thing with the most impact. It shows off our culture, but has a contemporary feel.”
Designed by Ottawa architect Douglas Cardinal, the new building is situated at the corner of Montreal Road and Bradley Avenue in Vanier, and features the same sandstone exterior used at Cardinal’s other well-know capital region design: the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau.
Once complete, the front of the building will feature glass which is meant to look as though water is circling the building -- and with wall to wall windows, the space offers a unique view of Vanier below.
Chase credits the support from the Vanier community for making everything from the beautifully textured bathroom tiles to the large, expansive rooms planned for community use possible.
“Really, it’s the community who helped us make this happen,” Chase said.
The $14.2-million expansion will offer health and community services. The federal and provincial governments contributed $2.3 million each to the project, while the Wabano Centre needed to raise the remaining $9.6 million. The star blanket tile design, where individual tiles were sold for $200 each, was part of the fundraising campaign.
As a way of thanking the community for rallying to its cause, Wabano will open its doors to Vanier at the end of March for its cultural symposium.
The official opening will take place in May, two years from the time shovels first went in the ground.
The centre has been serving the community for 12 years and sees 10,000 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people come through its doors every year.