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Another shot for The Met

Canad Inns gives historic spot a $16-M second chance

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/6/2011 (2700 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

High-school graduations, cabaret-style concerts, vintage movies, and screenings of Winnipeg Jets away games are all part of Canad Inns' latest plan to revive the Metropolitan Theatre.

The 92-year-old heritage structure, best known as a movie house, has sat empty on Donald Street since 1987.

Canad Inns now intends to proceed with a $16-million conversion into what company president and chairman Leo Ledohowski calls a "multi-function event space" with two lounges in the front lobby area, cabaret-style seating on tiered platforms in the main theatre hall and a new wing to house a kitchen and modern bathrooms on the south side of the building.

"It will be a food and beverage emporium of the highest calibre," Ledohowski pledged Wednesday on the second floor of what will eventually be known as the 1,000-seat Metropolitan Entertainment Centre.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/6/2011 (2700 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

 Much will be done to preserve The Met's original appearance.

WAYNE GLOWACKI/ WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Much will be done to preserve The Met's original appearance.

High-school graduations, cabaret-style concerts, vintage movies, and screenings of Winnipeg Jets away games are all part of Canad Inns' latest plan to revive the Metropolitan Theatre.

The 92-year-old heritage structure, best known as a movie house, has sat empty on Donald Street since 1987.

Leo Ledohowski announces the investment Wednesday.

Leo Ledohowski announces the investment Wednesday.

Canad Inns now intends to proceed with a $16-million conversion into what company president and chairman Leo Ledohowski calls a "multi-function event space" with two lounges in the front lobby area, cabaret-style seating on tiered platforms in the main theatre hall and a new wing to house a kitchen and modern bathrooms on the south side of the building.

"It will be a food and beverage emporium of the highest calibre," Ledohowski pledged Wednesday on the second floor of what will eventually be known as the 1,000-seat Metropolitan Entertainment Centre.

"I think many high-school graduations will be held here."

The Canad Inns Corporation purchased the building from downtown development agency CentreVenture in late 2006 for $100,000, originally with the intention of converting the theatre into a rock 'n' roll museum. The company spent $500,000 on renovations, but the plan never got off the ground.

The new $16-million project includes a heritage restoration that will attempt to recreate as much of the Met's original appearance as possible, Ledohowski said.

The Chicago company that created the original mouldings is still in business and has been asked to provide the same designs, he said.

The sloped floors in the theatre will be replaced with tiers, while new entrances will be punched in the south wall to allow access to the new wing, Ledohowski added.

An artist rendering of building post-renovations.

An artist rendering of building post-renovations.

The province has committed $1.5 million to the project, with the caveat that non-profit organizations must have access to the building 30 days a year, Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux said.

The City of Winnipeg will also provide a $1.5-million heritage grant but only at the back end of the construction project — and only if the restoration work is essentially complete by 2013.

"Our money is the last money in," said Mayor Sam Katz. "There is also a sunset clause in the agreement."

Ledohowski said Canad Inns can meet the two-year completion timetable and intends to spend the remaining $13 million required to complete the job.

Ottawa has been asked to contribute another $1.5 million, but Canad Inns is not counting on a federal grant to proceed with the project.

The interior of The Met will become a cabaret-concert and venue hall in 2012.

The interior of The Met will become a cabaret-concert and venue hall in 2012.

"This is well within the range and the possibilities and the capacity of our corporation," Ledohowski said. "There will be a lot of equity in there, a lot of cash equity from the firm."

Under the terms of the original development agreement, CentreVenture has been in a legal position to reclaim the theatre since June 2009. But city officials felt it was preferable to give the private-sector company more time to revive the structure.

"Not only do you have to be committed to this, but you have to be extremely passionate to do this," Katz told Ledohowski Wednesday.

"It's painstaking work that takes a great deal of time by artists, for all intents and purposes."

When the work is done, the theatre's lounges will be open every night the Winnipeg Jets play across the street at MTS Centre, Ledohowski said. Events in the main hall may include "dinner and a movie" nights on Sundays, high-school plays and cabaret-style concerts featuring performers such as Burton Cummings, he added.

"We've got some very well-known people that come from Winnipeg," said Ledohowski, singling out the performer who has already lent his name to another Winnipeg heritage theatre, Burton Cummings.

Ledohowski said the Met will not compete with the Burt, Pantages Playhouse or the Centennial Concert Hall, mainly because of the cabaret-style seating.

"This is a different concept. Those have stadium seating," he said. "It will be nothing that competes with anything in town."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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