12-27-2009, 10:23 AM
Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts
36 King Street West, Kitchener
12-27-2009, 10:26 AM
Conrad foundation breathes life into theatre
September 18, 2009
By Terry Pender, Record staff
KITCHENER — It was created thanks to the generosity of many and saved thanks to a single family.
The King Street Theatre Centre at 36 King St. West in the heart of downtown celebrates its new life as the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts with a party and a fundraiser Friday night.
Pay no attention to the old sign on the front of the building.
It's going to be changed later.
And the two people who made it possible — Manfred and Penny Conrad — are all smiles as they settle into a couple of chairs in the light-filled boardroom overlooking the main street.
“It makes you feel great when you walk up and you see this building,” Manfred says. “We are very fortunate we could be part of this. Ithink it is great.”
After Manfred sold several downtown buildings in a multimillion-dollar deal last year, The Manfred & Penny Conrad Family Foundation was established in December 2008.
Manfred's wife Penny, his daughter Sarah, and daughters-in-law Fiorella and Christine sit on the board of the foundation.
At about the same time the KW Symphony called the Conrads asking for help. The symphony wanted a new home for its offices and rehearsals.
“We were excited about it,” Penny says of the telephone call from the symphony. “We toured the building and we thought it was the right fit for us. We had just started our foundation and we had something available for the arts.”
In mid-January of this year, the board of directors for the King Street Theatre Centre announced it was closing the facility unless itcould secure annual funding of $250,000. The theatre had accumulated a debt of about $900,000 and could no longer operate.
It was devastating news for the arts community. The theatre opened in 2001 and was constructed with $3.8 million in tax-receipted donations.
The theatre received several proposals from individuals and groups, but elected to sell to the Conrad Family Foundation because it wanted to use the building for the performing arts.
“This is a big investment,” Manfred says. “We actually had to top up the foundation to do this one.”
The foundation got the building for about $900,000 — the value of the theatre's accumulated debt.
The transaction was completed earlier this summer and the symphony administrators moved in last month. The building was cleaned, painted and decorated. The lobby was renovated.
“The nice thing about the building being owned by the foundation is that the foundation has to make sure the building is kept up,” Manfred says.
Friday night's party will be held in the theatre under a large chandelier rented from the Stratford Festival. The Royal City Swing Band will be on stage. Tickets are $75.
The party begins after the KW Symphony's first concert of the 2009-2010 season finishes on Friday evening at Centre in the Square. That concert features Frederica von Stade, the legendary mezzo soprano who begins her farewell tour with Friday's performance.
Manfred and Penny have a long association with the symphony. Their daughter, Sarah, played violin in the KW Symphony's Youth Orchestra. Manfred sat on the Youth Orchestra's board.
At a time when other developers and investors put their money into suburbs and malls, Manfred bought up a lot of office buildings and other properties in the downtown. Buying the theatre was a natural fit for the family.
“I made my money downtown. I moved into the downtown when everybody else thought I was crazy and I always believed it could be turned around,” Manfred says.
“We certainly made a good living. Why not put some back, right?” Manfred says.
“It was a lot more than we anticipated but it was well worth it,” Penny says. “There is joy in giving and we would like to see some ofthat in our lifetime.”
Both stress repeatedly they want to see a variety of groups using the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts.
The symphony is both the main tenant in the building and in charge of renting out the theatre and second-floor rehearsal hall to othergroups.
Genevieve Twomey, the symphony's executive director, says the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts should become an anchor in the city's cultural landscape — part of a cultural corridor that includes the Waterloo Region Children's Museum and Centre in the Square.
IMPACT 09 — a 10-day long festival of physical theatre is booked into the centre beginning next week. Lost and Found Theatre has booked time for two plays. KW Youth Theatre will also use the space.
“We really want to book this space so we are going to be doing our best to get the word out and say: ‘Building is open, lights are on, give us a call, come on down, see the space,' ” Twomey says.
All of the symphony's big performances will still be staged at Centre in the Square. But the symphony's Intersections concerts will beheld at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts. Up to now, the Intersections concerts were staged in the Humanities Theatre at the University of Waterloo.
Former theatre transformed into downtown arts centre
November 02, 2009
By Jeff Outhit
KITCHENER — Arts lovers have high hopes for a downtown theatre building with a rocky history.
The Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts, located at 36 King St. W., drew artists, neighbours and the plain curious to its inaugural open house Sunday.
Families streamed through the doors, into a brighter, refurbished lobby. It features a new floor, new ceiling, new lights and new drywall.
For five hours in the afternoon, people were entertained by drummers, actors, singers, dancers and musicians who held short performances in the main theatre and in the upstairs studio.
Ben Hagon was on his way to the nearby children's museum but took a detour into the open house with his children Anne, 7, and Nathan, 5.
He liked what he saw. The family lives near the downtown. “We're craving and desiring a vital hub downtown for us to come and use,” said Hagon, a graphic artist.
Anne and Nathan joined a drumming circle, put on by Organic Groove Percussion in the upstairs studio. “It hurt my hands,” said Anne, but she liked the sounds.
Nathan it turns out is not such a fan of loud sounds. But he tapped away, before heading downstairs to hear music played by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.
The facility opened in 2001 as the home of the former Theatre and Company. When that venture failed, the building was sold amid some controversy to the Conrad Family Foundation, which intends to use it as a performing arts centre.
“It's a great space,” said Genevieve Twomey, executive director of the local symphony.
The symphony is using the building for rehearsal space and is also managing it as an arts centre.
Twomey's hope is to turn the building into a cultural hub for downtown Kitchener.
“For us, it's like coming back home,” said Alan K. Sapp, a founding member of Lost and Found Theatre, which emerged out of the collapse of Theatre and Company.
His group plans to perform in the theatre space if rates are kept affordable.
“They want the space to be active,” Sapp said of the new owners and managers. “It's just a great space to perform in. It's absolutely wonderful.”
05-04-2010, 11:51 PM
The Conrad Centre finally replaced the cheap looking temporary sign with a permanent sign. Looks just about identical to the temporary one, just doesn't look bad. In fact it looks quite good. Im hoping this can become a destination much like the Centre in the Square.
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