Metropolitan Entertainment Centre

As Originally Seen in Award Magazine :

A transformation of The Met in Winnipeg into the Canad Inns Metropolitan Entertainment Centre has maintained the historical integrity of its original neo-classical design.

The project involved the renovation of an existing theatre, originally designed by C. Howard Crane and built in 1919 by the Allen Brothers, says Erik von der Behrens, project manager for Bird Construction Company.

“The theatre was acquired in 2007 by Canad Inns, after 20 years of vacancy, with the intention of converting the space into a multi-use food and beverage emporium,” says von der Behrens. “We were engaged to act as the design-build contractor in the late fall of 2011 with the project reaching completion 13 months later on November 30, 2012.”

Canad Inns worked with the City of Winnipeg Heritage Department to ensure the colours that were chosen were in keeping with the character and heritage of the building, says Lane Ledohowski, VP of construction and facilities management at Canad Inns. 

One of the challenges of this designbuild project was the damage caused by water. “When older structures shrewdly withhold their secrets, those surprises can make construction benchmarks challenging to meet,” says Don Beaton,
architect at Number TEN Architectural Group.

Water damage to interior ornamentation was restored by the use of silicon moulds of the substantially intact surviving ornamentation, says Beaton. “It is interesting to note that one of the primary plasterers on the new restoration work is the greatgrandson of one of the plasterers who had done the original work prior to the 1919 opening,” notes Beaton. “About 60 per cent of the surviving light fixtures, including a massive crystal chandelier, were painstakingly restored at great cost to the owner.”

Renovation of the existing theatre saw extensive demolition within the building to accommodate the new multiuse design, which included the removal of the existing fixed tiered seating, says von der Behrens. 

In addition to the renovation, Canad Inns purchased the neighbouring property and the existing building was demolished to allow space for a new three-storey addition to be constructed. 

The most important feature of this entire project is the addition that was built immediately to the south of the existing theatre, says Ledohowski. “It is this addition that houses the modern requirements and without it these features would have been installed into the original theatre. This would have seriously hampered our ability to operate the space and maintain the integrity of the building,” adds Ledohowski. 

The new floor-levels of the addition were aligned with the existing floor levels of the theatre. “It sounds simple but the resulting floor-to-floor heights in the new structure are not ideal for a contemporary commercial kitchen,” says Beaton. “This put pressure on the designers and the subtrades to organize the HVAC and plumbing systems with space available.”

The exterior cladding for the upperstorey of the front facade of the new addition is a white aluminum metal  panel and translucent white curtainwall. “At the sidewalk level, curtainwall and black clay masonry were utilized to visually frame the activity in the new entry lobby and queuing areas,” says Beaton. “The south-side elevation along the property line and the alley side both utilized a lattice work of pre-finished grey cement board cladding.” 

The 1,700-square-feet rooftop patio is enclosed by stainless steel and glass railing. It has a cement board cladding on the wall surfaces and a grey prefab cement patio stone.

“Canad Inns has incorporated into the auditorium space the largest HD projection screen in the province,” says Beaton. “The second floor curtainwall on the addition facade was designed with a frosted white translucent laminated surface on which projected images may activate the facade as a digital marquee to passersby below.” 

There are always challenges with heritage revitalization projects, notes Beaton. “As in this case, there is often very little surviving documentation,” says Beaton. Through the course of the project there were often great discrepancies discovered between what appears to be an existing condition and what was intended to have been built.”

As a result, any new vision for a renovation design is often in flux, adjusting to those conditions as they are uncovered, says Beaton. “We tried to obtain original drawings and we did manage to get some but they were pretty sketchy,” says John Miller, partner at Crosier Kilgour & Partners Ltd. 

“We had to cut openings in the existing balcony structure and go in to measure components and see how  everything essentially fits together so we could justify adding additional load to the balcony.”

Some of the roof members were also damaged, says Miller. “We didn’t know that going in and so we had to do some significant reinforcement of the roof structure,” notes Miller. “Also, there was an old fly loft that was used to raise and lower screens from on top of the existing stage and it was a flimsy little structure. They wanted to use that platform again to access the area above the stage so we had to reinforce it, making sure that it could take the weight of workers and whatever equipment was going up there.”

Despite the many challenges, the final facility is a beautiful space that everyone is proud of, says von der Behrens. “It’s always rewarding when you get to work on a heritage building and bring it back to life,” adds Miller. 
Metropolitan Entertainment Centre : News & Media : Bird Construction