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Show over for Metropolitan?

Renovation work hasn't even started The long road to the redevelopment of downtown Winnipeg's Metropolitan Theatre

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/8/2009 (3344 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG – Four months after Mayor Sam Katz pulled the plug on water park cash for Canad Inns, a city agency is wondering whether it's time to close the curtains on another deal with the Winnipeg hotel chain.

In late 2006, Canad Inns bought the Metropolitan Theatre from downtown development agency CentreVenture for $100,000 and signed a development deal that was supposed to see renovations begin by the end of 2007.

Under the terms of the deal, the work was to be completed by June of this year. But that deadline has come and gone without any noticeable change to the 90-year-old heritage venue.

Now, CentreVenture officials must decide whether to assume control of the Met or give Canad Inns another chance to come up with a plan to renovate the building, which has seen scant use since Famous Players stopped screening movies at the venue in 1987.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/8/2009 (3344 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Canad Inns hasn't renovated the Metropolitan Theatre (seen in 2004) and CentreVenture is stumped as to what happens now.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

Canad Inns hasn't renovated the Metropolitan Theatre (seen in 2004) and CentreVenture is stumped as to what happens now.

WINNIPEG – Four months after Mayor Sam Katz pulled the plug on water park cash for Canad Inns, a city agency is wondering whether it's time to close the curtains on another deal with the Winnipeg hotel chain.

In late 2006, Canad Inns bought the Metropolitan Theatre from downtown development agency CentreVenture for $100,000 and signed a development deal that was supposed to see renovations begin by the end of 2007.

The Met in 1959 as a movie theatre, which closed in 1987.

MANITOBA ARCHIVES

The Met in 1959 as a movie theatre, which closed in 1987.

Under the terms of the deal, the work was to be completed by June of this year. But that deadline has come and gone without any noticeable change to the 90-year-old heritage venue.

Now, CentreVenture officials must decide whether to assume control of the Met or give Canad Inns another chance to come up with a plan to renovate the building, which has seen scant use since Famous Players stopped screening movies at the venue in 1987.

"It is, admittedly, a difficult piece of property to work with," CentreVenture board chairman Jim Ludlow said Wednesday. "But the time has certainly passed vis-a-vis the development agreement."

Canad Inns' acquisition of the Met dates back to 2005, when businessmen Hartley Richardson, Leonard Asper, Mark Chipman, Dennis Levy and Free Press co-owner Bob Silver proposed the creation of a non-profit organization to run a rock 'n' roll museum at the venue.

Winnipeg music historian John Einarson was touted as the curator and Canad Inns was supposed to run a nightclub at the site.

The Met, on Donald Street across from the MTS Centre, still sits vacant today.

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

The Met, on Donald Street across from the MTS Centre, still sits vacant today.

When CentreVenture issued a call for proposals to redevelop the Met, the museum/nightclub concept won the bid. But the non-profit group parted ways with Canad Inns in 2006, forcing CentreVenture to issue a new call for proposals to allow other non-profit organizations a shot at the venue.

Although Canad Inns CEO Leo Ledohowski was angry at CentreVenture, the chain resubmitted a bid and was deemed the only valid applicant.

Canad Inns assumed control of the Met on Dec. 22, 2006 but revealed little about its plans. In a statement in April 2007, Ledohowski said the chain would create a "destination centre" out of the Met as well as a new building to be constructed south of the theatre.

In March 2009, Ledohowski told the Free Press the Met would become "a super supper club" that would serve food and alcohol, feature entertainment and also cater to graduations and corporate dinners. Restoration work on the heritage building's exterior would begin before the end of May, he said.

"We'll start as soon as the weather breaks," Ledohowski said in the spring. "We're not finished with all the plans yet, but it will be the finest establishment of its kind in the city."

As of Wednesday, Canad Inns has yet to request any building permits or file development plans, a city spokesman confirmed.

Ludlow said he has been told the chain has spent money on architectural plans, but was not aware what they entailed. Einarson is no longer associated with the project, which no longer has a rock-museum component.

Ledohowski's office did not return calls Wednesday.

In March, he suggested the cost of the theatre's redevelopment would exceed $10 million, while CentreVenture CEO Ross McGowan said the project would qualify for federal and provincial heritage funding.

The development deal signed by Canad Inns calls for the chain to restore the Met's facade, entrance and mezzanine and reconstruct heritage elements destroyed during previous renovations. It also stipulates the Met must not compete with other downtown heritage theatres.

Ludlow conceded it's tough for any developer to work within these guidelines. "There are precious few options with that building," he said.

Rather than assume control of the Met and find a new developer, CentreVenture would prefer to see Canad Inns come up with a new plan.

But the chain has a lot on its plate, including a new hotel at the Health Sciences Centre and renovations to Portage Avenue's Radisson Hotel.

In April, Katz cited the chain's slow movement on a proposed water park at Canad Inns' Polo Park hotel as the main reason the city withdrew a $7-million grant toward that project.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

 

The long road to the redevelopment of downtown Winnipeg's Metropolitan Theatre

1919: Allen family of Brantford, Ont., builds and bankrolls the Allen Theatre, which opens on Donald Street the following year with 2,300 seats and a luxurious, neo-classical interior.

1923: After the Allens run into financial trouble, Famous Players buys the building, renames it the Metropolitan and converts it into a first-run movie theatre.

1987: After five decades in business, the Met is shuttered as part of a spate of downtown theatre closings that also saw the end of movie screenings at the Northstar, Odeon, Colony and Capitol in the '80s and '90s.

2004: The MTS Centre opens across Donald Street, sparking queries about the Met from developers.

2005: Downtown development agency CentreVenture issues a request for proposals to redevelop the Met. The winning proposal is a rock museum concept backed by a non-profit group led by local businessmen Hartley Richardson, Mark Chipman, Leonard Asper and Bob Silver, in association with a nightclub development by the Canad Inns hotel chain.

2006: The rock museum plan dies in the spring after the non-profit group parts ways with Canad Inns. CentreVenture is forced to issue another request for proposals to allow an even playing field for other for-profit ventures. In the end, the only valid proposal comes from Canad Inns, which purchases the Met for $100,000 and assumes control in December.

2007: Work on the theatre is supposed to begin by the end of the year, based on a development agreement signed by Canad Inns. The work was supposed to be finished in June 2009.

2009: In March, Canad Inns CEO Leo Ledohowski pledges work on the Met will begin by June 2009, but the deadline for completion passes with no work done to the theatre. CentreVenture is now considering whether to assume control of the building, though it would prefer to see Canad Inns come up with a revised plan.

— Bartley Kives

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