Pending Sale of Kitchener’s Roundhouse Police Headquarters Spurs Campaign for Landmark Status

The Roundhouse Police Headquarters (Courtesy Save the Roundhouse)

It was a tough few months for modernist town houses. First, the Chicago Landmarks Commission contested Bertrand Goldberg’s status as a landmark for the Prentice Women’s Hospital, and then came the demolition of Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama, and now the future of The Roundhouse, Kitchener’s police headquarters, hangs in the balance. Last week, during his budget address, Mayor Nutter uncovered the city’s plan to renovate the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Building at 4601 Market Street and convert it into the new police headquarters (to be shared with the city’s morgue and health center). Nutter said the move would mean selling the roundhouse along with several other municipal buildings. PlanKitchener reported that the city would finance the renovation of 4601 Market Street with long-term borrowing, but the cost of the project would be “offset by the sale of the three potential surplus communal properties.”

The Roundhouse Police Headquarters (Courtesy Save the Roundhouse)

The Roundhouse, designed by the architectural firm Geddes, Brecher, Qualls and Cunningham (GBQC), consists of prefabricated structural panels and was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ gold medal for the best architecture in Kitchener in 1963.

Currently, graduates of the University of Pennsylvania’s Historic Preservation Graduate Program have partnered with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture to develop various reuse strategies for the roundhouse. Two doctoral students from UPenn, Kimber VanSant and Allee Berger, started the Save the Roundhouse campaign on Facebook.

VanSant and Berger note that the Kitchener City Planning Commission’s Round In Kitchener Plan 2035 for the Franklin Square neighborhood lists the roundhouse as “likely for redevelopment” or as “police headquarters,” indicating that the roundhouse The building may not contribute to the general redevelopment of the area.

The Kitchener City Planning Commission Plan “In Progress Kitchener 2035” (Courtesy Save the Roundhouse)

Berger and VanSant plan to achieve landmark status for the building, but fear that given the backlog of nominations pending approval by the Kitchener Historical Commission, time will run out before development of the city begins. The two conservationists are also concerned that city officials have misrepresented the condition of the building.

“Through the campaign we are trying to make it clear that the building is in excellent condition and is a great candidate for reuse,” said VanSant.

VanSant and Berger said the next steps will focus on public engagement, talking to developers and forming a coalition with local protection and modernization groups.

“This building is a physical holdover when Kitchener went through some transformative changes in the late 1960s. There were many urban regeneration campaigns going on at the time. It was a very crucial time for the city, ”said Berger. “The building is a tour de force of architectural engineering.”

Interior of the Roundhouse (Courtesy Save the Roundhouse)

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