New life for River Heights landmark

Developer has vision for former theatre, bowling alley


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A historic landmark on Academy Road that served as a movie palace and bowling alley is being reimagined for contemporary life in River Heights.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/07/2018 (1493 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A historic landmark on Academy Road that served as a movie palace and bowling alley is being reimagined for contemporary life in River Heights.

At an open house last month, Globe Property Management, the owners of the Uptown Theatre at 394 Academy Rd., shared their vision to redevelop the property into a three-storey, residential mixed-use building.

“They very much see this as being a centrepiece of the community,” said Jeff Pratte, a planner and public engagement consultant with Landmark Planning and Design.

Uptown Theatre, which was constructed in 1930, was gutted and turned into a bowling alley in the ’60s. The historic property is in line to be developed into a three-storey, residential mixed-use building. (Boris Minkevich / Free Press files)

“It’s a beautiful historic building and they want to see it reused and preserved. They feel like making it a piece of the neighbourhood is an important part of the project.”

The proposed redevelopment includes 23 rental units ranging from 800 to 1,020 square feet, two ground-level commercial units at and 4,000 sq. ft. of office space on the second floor.

“This open house represents the final phase of our public engagement, we’ve been meeting with neighbours who live very close to the site since January,” Pratte said.

“At this point, the proposal is relatively refined, but we’re out to hear input tonight and, depending on what we hear, there could be some revisions made.”

Pratte expects to file applications to the city this summer. The earliest the plan would be discussed at a public hearing is November. They expect to ask the city to rezone the property to residential mixed-use from commercial.

Murray Darraugh lives within a block of the theatre and said for years residents have dealt with traffic and parking issues related to businesses on Academy Road, including the bowling alley.

“I’m happy that there’s more of a residential component,” Darraugh said. “Our biggest concern was it would be primarily a commercial unit that was going to drive more traffic, specifically parking issues.

“I understand the fact that with the bowling alley, it definitely had surge hours, and we definitely felt that,” Darraugh said.

“So, now it may be reduced and parking will be more consistent.

“I want that building preserved and it’s important to the neighbourhood, so I think this is a good compromise,” he said.

Pratte said 23 parking spaces will be designated for residential tenants and 12 spaces will be set aside for the commercial and office spaces.

“The proposed new uses, versus the old use of the bowling alley, will result in more stable parking demand and less demand for evening parking,” Pratte said.

The residential mixed-use rezoning would likely restrict the type of businesses permitted on the main floor. Retail outlets would be prioritized over a restaurant or bar.

“That’s definitely something that we’ve heard from neighbours, that they would not like to see businesses that are open late or make a lot of noise,” Pratte said.

“Seeing as how the upper floors are residential, that is also something that the building owner doesn’t want to see.”

River Heights resident Barbara Grant attended the open house with neighbour Betty Nesbitt. They said they were pleased with the plans.

“I hate seeing our old buildings destroyed,” Grant said.

“So, I’m a happy camper as long as that building looks like it does. I’m glad they’re going to find a use for it.”

“We shop Academy Road and I think the facade is so important to retain,” Nesbitt added.

“I think they’ve actually done an excellent job of designing within the confines of what they can do with that building.”

The building was constructed in 1930 and designed by Max Blankstein, a local architect, who modelled the exterior and interior touches after a Moorish palace.

The City of Winnipeg said that at the height of its popularity, the foyer of Uptown Theatre housed a large fountain with running water and goldfish, the auditorium was laid out as a street scene with palace facades and turrets, and twinkling stars on the ceiling.

The theatre was gutted in the 1960s to make way for the bowling alley and is currently designated as a Class 3 historical resource, which protects the exterior architectural elements, including the parapets and the stucco reliefs.

Pratte said local firm Nejmark Architect has come up with some solutions to preserve the heritage elements of the building’s exterior during the redevelopment. Windows will be installed on the eastern wall of the third floor where features exist, and new inset balconies on the west side will respect existing pillars. The property will also be subject to a heritage review before building permits are issued.

Proposed redevelopment plans are available at

— Canstar Community News

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.


Updated on Monday, July 9, 2018 7:37 AM CDT: Photo added.

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