Adding space at Nia Centre

If these walls could talk.

Dalton is currently transforming 524 Oakwood Avenue - a 12,900 sq. ft. City of Toronto owned building in Toronto’s west end - into the new home of Nia Centre for the Arts. Over the past 100+ years, the building has been renovated and repurposed as a theatre, dancehall, bowling alley and most recently a public health centre. That is a significant amount of change over a period of time when the construction industry saw a dramatic evolution of available materials, techniques and technology. By looking at the walls themselves, this building acts as a time capsule, each layer representing a moment in time.

While repurposing a space with history preserved in its walls may sound poetic, its age and composition have caused this adaptive reuse project to be increasingly complex. The design of the new facility involves the construction of two structurally significant spaces not present in the original layout: digging a 10-foot deep basement and creating a 2,500-square-foot two-storey performance hall.



Compact footprint; massive transformation.


The addition of a basement at the Nia Centre - where only a crawl space existed – is a component of this project that has benefitted greatly from Dalton’s adaptive reuse expertise and our longstanding relationship with the structural engineering team at Atkins + Van Groll. Together we decided to use bench footing; a cost-effective method used to provide extra space without altering the footprint of the building or potentially undermining the neighbouring structure. Instead of excavating under the existing basement foundation, a bench or ledge (comprised of concrete and rebar) was built around the inside perimeter of the existing walls.


Once the structure was supported, we lowered the basement foundation within the benched space and were able to pour new concrete slabs at a lower depth without modifying the foundation walls – and without affecting the neighbouring buildings. This process is not simple or easy and required thoughtful planning and careful execution by our expert team to ensure that the foundation of the building remained intact and stable.


Following the extension of the basement, we were ready to begin construction of the various rooms planned for the space including state-of-the-art recording studios and the performance hall. Nia Centre’s robust programming means that at any given time there may be artists rehearsing, recording and performing independent of one other, each requiring sound and movement isolation. We are working with an Acoustic consultant to carefully construct the acoustical spaces needed to provide an environment that is conducive and inspiring to the creative process.


Our extensive experience successfully transforming historical buildings and performing arts spaces for our clients means we are well positioned to act as Construction Manager on your next Adaptive Reuse project.