Demolition plans for theatre scrapped
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The Palace Theatre does not appear set for a date with the wrecking ball any time soon.
In an emailed statement, the University of Manitoba said it is consulting with community groups about the building, located at 501 Selkirk Ave., and “has committed not to move forward with demolishing the Palace Theatre at this time.”
“We will continue to consult on how best to proceed with the site in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to community partnerships. Starting on June 13, (the university) will address safety concerns with the existing structure by proceeding with required asbestos and mold abatement.”
Community concern for the building escalated last week after the City of Winnipeg published a letter from the building’s owner, the University of Manitoba. That letter asked the municipal government to waive an inspection fee for the property because “the building in question will be demolished (in the) next couple of months.”
“The University of Manitoba has (made) several attempts to find a new use for the building or to sell, without positive result. Last year, the University of Manitoba decided to demolish the existing building and clean the site,” a memo from U of M project manager Dan Ionescu, dated May 11, reads.
The letter raised immediate concern for the building, which hosted a movie theatre, department store and flea market before becoming vacant in 2002.
Built in 1912, some community members argue the theatre has historic value, even though it lacks heritage protection. Some in the community say there are hopes it could serve as a hub of arts and culture.
After meeting with the U of M about the building’s fate, the chairman of the North End Renewal Corporation said he’s confident the building will be saved, if that’s possible.
Michael Redhead Champagne said the U of M noted the building has significant structural damage but promised to preserve it “as best as they can, whatever structurally and financially is possible.”
“They said that they will do what the community desires, and I really appreciate that,” Champagne said.
He said the building is important to many folks in the neighbourhood, who have fond memories of visiting it and hope it can one day reopen as an arts centre.
“I think the community has shared with North End Renewal Corporation some of its dreams about the North End arts and cultural centre… a place for programming, arts and culture, a place for performance and gathering, and a place for local employment,” Champagne said.
“And I think because the pandemic really isolated people physically and socially, there’s a real desire in the community to have safe places to celebrate each other and be together.”
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.