APRIL 21, 2017

MOAKE PARK GROUP AWARDED 2017 BCA EXCELLENCE AWARD FOR HISTORIC FORT WAYNE EMBASSY THEATRE RENOVATION

PROJECT NAME:

PROJECT CATEGORY:

PROJECT COST:

PROJECT MANAGER:

Commercial / Industrial

Renovation > $2M

Weigand Construction

The Historic Embassy Theater

Fort Wayne, IN

$10M

DESCRIPTION OF OVERALL PROJECT:

While major renovation and preservation projects are nothing new to the Embassy Theatre, a renovation project was planned to meet a growing demand from the community for larger and additional unique spaces within the theatre.  The project would seamlessly combine improvements to the Embassy while solving the 40 year old dilemma of how best to use the former hotel.

 

PROJECT SCOPE:

Interior renovations to re-purpose the existing Indiana Hotel wing of the Embassy Theatre including the following spaces:

 

      Administrative Offices

      Donor’s Lounge

      Piano Bar

      Classrooms

      Meeting Spaces

      Two-Story Ball Room

      Rehearsal Studio

      “Lessons” Learning Center

      Embassy Heritage Center

      Rooftop Patio

      New Dressing Rooms

      Mezzanine Lounge

      Updated Box Office

 

The project also included expanding the Grand Hall of the Theatre to allow for three new bars and concessions areas, eliminating most of the congestion which occurred before shows and during intermissions.

 

PROJECT UNIQUENESS:

While major renovation and preservation projects are nothing new to the Embassy Theatre, a renovation project was planned to meet a growing demand from the community for larger and additional unique spaces within the theatre.  The project would seamlessly combine improvements to the Embassy while solving the 40 year old dilemma of how best to use the former hotel.

 

The Historic Embassy project was unique from the design of the spaces to the construction of the project.  Because there were no structural drawings for the existing building this created a lot of investigation into the building and we did run into a few surprises along the way.  During construction 788 tons of debris was removed from the building.  All demolition material was removed from the building via manual labor.

 

Construction had to also occur while keeping the Theatre in operation, so proper phasing was critical.  Construction was scheduled around performances at the Theatre along with scheduling intermittent crane use around performances as well as Tincap games and events at the Grand Wayne Center.  Other project phasing issues included completing the 4th floor before starting the 2nd floor, the 2nd floor had to be completed prior to the Festival of Trees, 1st floor kitchen couldn’t begin until the 6th floor kitchen was operational.  The basement and the box office work had to be done during the summer months to avoid show times.  The existing chiller couldn’t be removed until the new chiller was operational.  Phasing was crucial every step of the way.  Most importantly, the design team wanted to be extremely respectful of this iconic and historic structure.

 

Design challenges included very low floor to floor heights, an irregular column grid, the lack of an accessible route to the buildings seven stories, and life safety.  The floor to floor height is only 9’-8” which created several issues with MEP design.  We had to be very meticulous in the layout of can lights, ductwork and sprinkler systems.  Given the lack of room to run duct work, engineers designed a fan coil system with piping that ran horizontally along the floor.  Mechanical systems were concealed within enclosures designed to blend in with the existing finish palette of the Indiana Hotel.  Originally built in 1928, the walls of the hotel were masonry and included no insulation.  The renovation project included furring out the walls of floors four through seven and adding spray foam insulation meeting current energy code requirements.

 

For most new spaces, sprinkler piping was able to be concealed above new ceilings, however, in the original Hotel lobby and Mezzanine, this was not the case.  The sprinkler system was designed to serve these spaces from the perimeter of the room and was faux painted to blend into the existing plaster crown moldings.

 

The Embassy Theatre and Indiana Hotel are connected to adjacent buildings through a series of sky bridges at the Hotel’s 3rd level.  These connections provide patrons access to adjacent hotels, a convention center, and parking.   It is from this floor that an ADA compliant elevator was installed that not only access the upper floors, but also the new rooftop patio.  New egress stairs were created for access to and from the patio, and one of the hotel’s existing elevators was put back into service connecting all seven stories.

 

The new ballroom was created on both the 6th and 7th floors of the former Hotel to successfully accommodate events for up to 350 people, the two floors needed to be opened up to one another to provide an open and connected feel.  So, a large portion of the 7th floor was removed allowing for the construction of a grand stair connecting the two floors.  The design of this new space was inspired by the original Hotel Lobby and Mezzanine.

 

Through all renovations and improvements, the Embassy Theatre, has maintained the historic integrity of the building that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

SIGNIFICANCE / IMPACT TO COMMUNITY WHERE CONSTRUCTED:

Built in 1928 the Historic Embassy Theatre features national productions from the Broadway stage, concerts of all musical formats, cinema and educational programming.  The project would seamlessly combine improvements to the Embassy while solving the 40 year old dilemma of how best to use the former hotel.  The unused space in the old hotel had a lot of potential, and that working together, a piece of history could be restored to the Theatre.  The combination of distinctive and functional space contained within the architecture of the Historic Embassy is rarely found and our community is fortunate to have found that in the Embassy.  Its original design elements and special character remain largely intact.

 

The Embassy Theatre is a stellar economic driver in our community.  The Theatre welcomes over 110,000 patrons each year and 34.3 percent of those attendees are from outside Allen County.  The business activity for Allen County by Embassy operations and visitor spending generates over $3.75 million and the renovation and additions to the Theatre will help increase economic spending and visits to the Fort Wayne downtown area.

 

The new renovated spaces also allows the Embassy to grow their educational programming for all school children. More than 3,000 students visit the Embassy annually.

 

The renovation project also provided additional dressing rooms, larger facility space and better and safer access to primary backstage area.   This enhances the stage renter’s experience, improve stage rental opportunities and increase fee structure.  This will be an end result of offering new, different and larger acts at the Theatre.

 

The newly renovated Embassy Theatre offers the only public rooftop event garden in downtown Fort Wayne. Not only does the rooftop garden help meet seasonal demands for outdoor event space the Embassy has opened up the patio during the summer months for the community members to come to enjoy music by local artists and take in the stunning view of the downtown area.  This space is a phenomenal addition to the growing excitement for the downtown area.

 

To meet the demand for larger rental space, the addition of a two-story ballroom which seats up to 390 will offer community members a perfect place to host their special events.  Along with the Ballroom, there are several rooms available for everything from a weekday business meeting, to luncheons, to performing arts rehearsals, to spaces for business training sessions.

 

The Historic Embassy Theatre is a true gem for not only community members in Fort Wayne but for the entire Northeast Indiana and surrounding areas.  What once was close to being taken down by a wrecking ball in 1972, is now a true destination point for Fort Wayne.  Community leaders and volunteers have come together to preserve this historic treasure through their bold vision, which will not only be enjoyed by community members today, but future generations as well.  Through the many renovations and improvements, the Embassy Theatre has maintained the historic integrity of the building.

PROJECT PHOTOS