Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
A new operator will aim to restore the Pantages Playhouse Theatre once again, following arts community concerns its 107-year-old stage could remain dark after the property’s recent sale.
In 2019, council approved a plan to sell the theatre for $530,000 to Alex Boersma and Lars Nicholson. The two planned to create some housing within a mixed-use development at the downtown Winnipeg site, which includes a plaza along Main Street, while also resuming theatre operations.
The city was recently lobbied to help guarantee the Market Avenue heritage theatre hosts performances once again, instead of simply being preserved in its shuttered state. The heritage designation protects the theatre from demolition.
On Monday, the Performing Arts Consortium of Winnipeg announced it has struck a deal with the building’s owner, through which the consortium would operate the theatre. The owner plans to sell the theatre to that group for $1.
"We have an excellent agreement with Alex (Boersma) and company that preserves and protects the theatre in its entirety," said Ross McGowan, who spoke on behalf of the consortium.
The two sides said the agreement would involve a subdivision for the theatre itself, but still has a few more details left to be finalized.
As long as those last steps are completed, the consortium would not only operate the theatre but aim to fundraise $10 million to restore it. It would be redeveloped to become the home of Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and others, said McGowan.
The arrangement will leave enough land for a new mixed-use development, Boersma said.
"We’re able to develop something there… that works for our financial model. The location is incredible, you can’t replace that," he said of the site, which is in close proximity to other theatres and city hall.
"I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something really special."
The land owner said many of the new development’s details are still being worked out. The structure will include some form of housing, though the exact amount is still being determined, he said.
On Monday, council’s property and development committee voted to see the City of Winnipeg continue to own and maintain a streetcar sculpture at the property, which commemorates the General Strike of 1919.
Full council approval is required to finalize that element of the sale.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
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