Transforming Windsor Law Dean's Updates


While our law school faculty, staff and students have managed the transition to online legal education brilliantly, I am convinced more than ever that deep legal education is optimally delivered face-to-face. Legal education at its best is relational, community-based and transformative. I am excited about how we will be able to pick up a primarily face-to-face model in the renovated Ron W. Ianni law building (albeit with much improved and more flexible space and technology). Although we continue to work remotely at this time, things are moving on the project and I am pleased to provide three updates.

First, the joint venture of EllisDon Corporation and Fortis Construction Group has been selected as the General Contractor for the project following a thorough procurement process. They are no strangers to campus and are currently the General Contractor for the Lancer Centre. We look forward to working with them and they are mobilizing this month for a January 2021 start to construction. 

Second, the temporary quarters for Windsor Law on campus are complete. While we will remain primarily online in the Winter semester, small numbers of students will be on campus and we anticipate that this number will rise when we can gather safely in greater numbers. We have some excellent common student spaces and amenities which will open as soon as conditions allow. Once we return to campus, wayfinding signage will be posted at each of our locations to help Windsor Law stakeholders and visitors navigate our campus.

Third, there has been a roughly 15% increase in the project budget (primarily due to the impact of COVID-19) which has been approved by the University’s Board of Governors. This increase will be cost-shared by the Law School (by extending the length of our internal loan from the University) and the central University. Windsor Law’s fundraising target of $6 million remains an achievable goal. We are currently at $5.3 million, despite the pandemic, and are immensely grateful for the contributions to date. The generosity and investments of alumni and friends will see us break through that target before the project is completed roughly two years from now.

-Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges to all aspects of our University’s operations, including planning for the Transforming Windsor Law (TWL) building project. However, I am pleased to be able to provide some clarity on the way forward for the project.

We were to have packed up and moved to temporary quarters this summer, with a late summer start for construction. Unfortunately, we have been unable to do the work necessary to make the temporary quarters suitable for our needs due to the suspension of construction sites on campus. However, while we are facing a delay in terms of our temporary relocation and the start of the transformative renovations of the Ron W. Ianni law building, the delay is manageable and relatively brief in the grand scheme of things.

The revised plan is to push back construction by roughly six months, with a planned start no later than January 2021. In an effort to minimize disruption and ensure service to students through the Fall semester, we have planned a two-stage relocation strategy. Our plan is for the Law Library to move this summer to the Leddy Library. The rest of the Faculty of Law will move to temporary quarters at the end of the Fall 2020 term, with no disruption to the dates of the academic year.  This gives us additional time to pack and has the advantage of freeing up space in the Law Library if we require additional room for physical distancing for our academic programs.

I remain very excited about this project; indeed, it is encouraging to look forward to our new space despite current challenges. If you haven’t had a chance to see the renderings, please take a look. The support of alumni and friends is also more important than ever; please consider making a contribution if you are able.

-Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

Earlier this month, the Transforming Windsor Law project was formally approved by the University’s Board of Governors. With this approval, construction on the Ron W. Ianni Law building will begin in Summer 2020, on schedule. We anticipate obtaining occupancy and substantial completion in July 2022.

The $30 million project will make the Law School more warm, welcoming and accessible, while giving us better space for teaching, learning and collaboration. 

Fundraising is going well. Thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends we have raised $4.2 million to date. If you haven’t done so yet, please consider an investment in Windsor Law through a contribution.

-Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

Pending approval by the Board of Governors, contstuction to the Ron W. Ianni Law building is scheduled to begin in Summer 2020. During this period, Windsor Law students, faculty, and staff will temporarily relocate into “law clusters” around the rest of the campus.

While this kind of dislocation is never easy, the result will make us all proud. Meanwhile, please be assured that the administrative team, faculty, staff, and student government will work together to ensure that student needs are met throughout the process and that we maintain our strong sense of community.

While there will be a few classes scheduled at the downtown campus — as there are currently — the bulk of classes will remain on main campus: in the Odette School of Business, Toldo Health Education Centre, and the Neal Education Building. Where classes are scheduled downtown, attention will be paid to leaving sufficient time to get to and from main campus.

A lounge dedicated to law students will likely be located in the CAW Student Centre, along with offices for the faculty’s student services, career services, and academic co-ordinators. Faculty and administrative staff will have space in Vanier Hall’s Winclare Room, and the deans’ offices will be located in Lambton Tower, close to the borrowed classroom spaces. The Leddy Library will accommodate the Law Library.

-Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

Following consultations with students, faculty and staff, the architects are generating exciting plans that really open up and increase our usable space. Here is a brief clip of the architect introducing the project and below are a couple of concept images of the building's exterior and Moot Court. The changes will add significant usable space for our needs while largely remaining within the existing ‘envelope’ of the building (a big part of this is achieved by moving a mechanical room to the roof, thus creating a new second-floor concourse). The transformed building will offer more productive and accessible spaces for collaboration, teaching and learning. Here are the guiding principles for the design:

  1. Create a welcoming and accessible place that instils pride in Windsor Law.
  2. Increase usable building space in a way that puts the student experience at the centre and that supports dynamic teaching, research, experiential learning and service.
  3. Design flexible and multi-purpose spaces that are forward-looking and open to change.
  4. Connect the building to our local Indigenous peoples, physical environment, heritage and communities.
  5. Promote environmental sustainability, health and well-being.

We look forward to finalizing the plans over the summer and introducing them to alumni and friends in the fall. We will also be launching a fundraising campaign in the fall and look forward to your support. The transformed building will be one which instills pride in all of us.

-Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

After several design consultations with Windsor Law students, faculty and staff, Diamond Schmitt Architects are hard at work generating renderings for the transformation of the Ron W. Ianni law building. Initial renderings will be available for alumni and community feedback and consultation in July 2019. Please watch out for that; I think you will be pleased with the welcoming, collaborative space we are creating for a twenty-first century legal education.

-Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

I am pleased to announce that we have selected Diamond Schmitt Architects to help us transform the Ron W. Ianni Faculty of Law building. Diamond Schmitt is an award-winning firm which has experience designing first-rate law schools and other post-secondary education buildings. Pre-design and consultation will begin immediately. I look forward to the ideas and support of students, faculty, staff and alumni in making this project happen. Having recently celebrated our 50th anniversary, the reconceived building will set us up for success in our next 50 years.

- Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

It has been a long and at times tortuous route to get here, but I am pleased to announce that yesterday, at the University’s Board of Governors’ meeting, it was decided that we will move forward with reconceiving and renovating the Ianni Building. All of the bidding architectural firms kept their bids open during this period of uncertainty and we will not have to go through another Request for Proposals process. I will be in touch shortly about the selection of the architectural firm and next steps on consultation and design. We saw some exciting preliminary design ideas during the selection process and I can’t wait for us to get started. I look forward to the input and support of students, staff, faculty and alumni in 2019.

- Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

We were on the verge of selecting an architectural firm for the redesign of the Ianni Building in May, when the provincial government pledged $20 million for a Windsor Law move to the Paul Martin Building downtown. Plans for the Ianni renovation were shelved while we explored this option. However, as has been reported in the media, the new provincial government has decided not to proceed with this project. We will have an update on next steps shortly. As Interim University President Kneale put it, "It's safe to say that given this announcement we will not be proceeding with the Paul Martin Building, but we are hoping to have a very exciting announcement to make soon."

- Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

This is not the update I expected to give. When I last updated you, we had issued a request for proposals for architects to renovate the Ianni Building. We saw some excellent proposals, and were on the verge of selecting an architect, when the University recently received some exciting news about the prospect of major public investment in a downtown law school, located in the Paul Martin Building. President Wildeman explains:

“As your Faculty knows, we tried for over five years to explore the possibility of the law school relocating to the Paul Martin Building.  One of the many conditions that would have enabled that possibility to unfold was the condition that the province be one of the major funding partners.  While the province always liked the idea of the project, and was being supportive of the University of Windsor in other capital developments, throughout all of the years of advocacy it was never a project that they were able to get behind.  As a result, we proceeded, as you know, to commence planning for what could be done to enhance the current location.  Despite all of this, we have now just been made aware that the province has reversed its position and is now willing to be a funding partner for the Paul Martin Building.  This has come as a complete and sudden surprise to us.  As a result of learning this, we have re-opened conversation with the provincial ministry about the Paul Martin Building, to more fully understand the details around their commitment.  We are also in contact with federal partners to assess what this sudden commitment might mean for their support of the project.  We are very aware that a process for selecting an architect for the Ron Ianni Building redevelopment is well underway, and in fact would not have begun that process if we had felt there was any chance that the province was still considering the downtown possibility.  We are making every effort to obtain clarity from both the provincial and federal players involved regarding the Paul Martin Building option as quickly as we can, and will provide further updates as soon as we know more.  We have emphasized to all parties that we need finalization of our direction in the very near term, because all of us know that the needs of the Law School are urgent.

The bottom line is, it seems to me, good in either direction. We will either have a renovated Ianni Building on a renewed campus, or a renovated marquis heritage downtown, joined by our clinics and near both the School of Creative Arts (the Armouries) and Social Work (the Old Windsor Star Building) as well as courts and the profession.  One advantage of the move downtown is that there would be no disruption to classes during construction.

I hope your summers have started off well and will provide a further update later in the summer. Meanwhile, feel free to reach out to me with questions or concerns.

- Christopher Waters, Dean of Law

I am happy to report that we are taking the first steps towards the renovation and possible expansion of the Ianni Building.

On February 22, 2018, the University initiated a competitive procurement process by issuing a Request For Proposal for the Contract for Prime Consultant Services of the Ron W. Ianni Law Building Project. We hope to have contracted with a Prime Consultant by the end of May 2018, with the Project’s Phase One -planning and design services- commencing immediately. There will be extensive consultations with students, faculty and staff during this planning and design phase. Pending approval from the Board of Governors, construction could begin as early as Summer of 2019, with construction completed in time for the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester. I look forward to your support and hearing your ideas during the consultation phase!

- Christopher Waters, Dean of Law