Three current game-changers in downtown development

As Portage Place IMAX prepares to close curtains, planning for redevelopment begins

Portage Place IMAX. Photo: Kaitlyn Emslie Farrell.

What was for years Winnipeg’s biggest of big-screens, the IMAX theatre in Portage Place, is set to close this March after the property’s owner, the Forks North Portage Partnership (FNPP), announced it had become financially unviable.

FNPP CEO Jim August, who explained the venue was unable to compete with other cinemas due to its difficulty acquiring rights to screen major new releases, said the space is a good opportunity for redevelopment.

“We want something that’s really going to be a people place,” said August.

Though no potential tenants have been officially approached, August suggested the space might be used for “educational purposes” - due to its aptitude as a lecture hall - or by Manitoba Hydro, for example.

“Right now we’re in a very preliminary stage in terms of our planning,” said August.

“Over the next few months we’ll really be looking into it.”

According to August, the theatre will honour its existing bookings until it ceases operation in March.

Old Met Theatre finds its place in contemporary downtown

The Metropolitan Theatre. Photo: Kevin Legge.

After sitting dormant for a quarter century, the iconic Metropolitan Theatre on Donald Street has been resurrected into a new era.

The 93-year-old building, which Canad Inns purchased in 2006 and has since restored to the tune of $20 million, now functions primarily as a high-end restaurant and lounge since opening this past December.

According to Canad Inns CEO Paul Robson, the new Met has been given a warm reception from Winnipeggers so far.

“Everyone that’s been there has marveled at the attention to detail that went into restoring the theatre,” said Robson. “Not to mention the great reviews of the food.”

While the nostalgia factor is virtually guaranteed to draw in anyone old enough to have experienced the neo-classical marvel prior to its closing, there’s going to be plenty to attract younger crowds, too, according to Robson.

Live broadcasts of major sporting events - the return of the Jets on Jan. 19 included - are slated to take advantage of the theatre’s 30-foot screen, and a number of other “unique events” are also currently in the works, he said.

Whether or not you’re eager to check out the result of this massive renovation project, at least you can take it as a positive omen.

“There’s some confidence in downtown these days,” said Robson, who expressed excitement toward competitors’ recent developments in the area.

“The more amenities, choices, and unique things there are in any downtown area adds to the overall excitement, and that makes it a place people want to be.”

Revolving restaurant to reopen with new tenant this fall

The revolving restaurant. Photo: Kevin Legge.

Relax - it’s not going to be a Salisbury House.

After over four years of sitting empty, the revolving restaurant atop downtown’s iconic Fort Garry Hotel is set to start spinning once more with a fresh new tenant.

Noel Bernier, who owns Corrientes Pizzeria, co-owns Hermanos Restaurant, and is about to open a third Exchange District eatery, Brazillian BBQ Carnaval, is currently negotiating the terms of a lease deal with the space’s owners.

Bernier has already announced that the forthcoming restaurant, Prairie 360, will focus on serving up locally-sourced, Manitoba-inspired dishes when it (hopefully) opens for business later this year.

A Winnipeg landmark in its own right, the space was built in 1988 at the tail end of an international revolving restaurant fad that reached its height in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and is one of well over 100 revolving restaurants operating worldwide today.

Its original tenant, the Royal Crown Revolving Restaurant, occupied the skyline site until the end of 2008.

The Royal Crown’s operators cited a lack of downtown parking as the main reason for the eatery’s eventual financial decline.

Bernier could not be reached for comment before press time.

Published in Volume 67, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 16, 2013)

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