By BERNIE BELLAN Shaarey Zedek Congregation is about to embark on the first major renovation of its building since the 1970s.
We’ve reproduced renderings that were drawn up by representatives of Number TEN Architectural Group, which is the firm that has been engaged to develop plans for the soon-to-be totally renovated Shaarey Zedek building.
Where we are at now is that, after a long process of planning and consultation which began several years ago, Shaarey Zedek Congregation will now embark upon the next stage of the process, which will involve, in the first phase: asbestos remediation, repair/replacement of the roof, and HVAC replacement, followed by the renovation and modernization of the interior of the building.
In a message to congregation members, which was signed by President Gary Hyman and Executive Director Ran Ukashi, and which was a prelude to a Zoom session on Wednesday, Oct. 14, the following background information was given:
“Several years ago, Shaarey Zedek senior leadership began discussions regarding the undertaking of a capital campaign to address building-related issues including asbestos remediation, roof repair/replacement, and HVAC replacement. Given the nature of the work required, consideration was also given to renovating and modernizing the interior space as it had not seen much in the way of a refresh since its opening in 1949.
“In 2018, the leadership consulted with an architectural firm regarding the project and conducted a limited feasibility study to determine the appetite among the membership to support a capital campaign to cover the cost of the project. Number TEN Architectural Group was engaged to develop a preliminary design concept based on the feedback received from a small committee that was formed at the time. In the years that followed there would be matters and circumstances that delayed further action on the project, but the issues regarding the building did not disappear and the project remained at the forefront of the agenda.
“At its meeting on September 1 of this year, the Shaarey Zedek Board of Directors moved to proceed with the L’Dor Va Dor (From Generation to Generation) Capital Campaign to support the project and approved a budget of $14 million in this regard.”
At the meeting on Oct. 14, which was attended by some members of the congregation in person, while others joined in via Zoom, three members of Number TEN Architectural Group: Architects Dave Lalama and Brent Bellamy, along with interior designer Ivy Bricker, showed a number of artists’ renderings that gave various options for how the sanctuary and adjoining areas might look. They also showed drawings of the lower level, including a proposed coffee bar – something that elicited a number of critical reactions from congregation members.
Prior to the visual presentation by the representatives of Number TEN Architectural Group, Chair of L’Dor Va Dor committee Neil Duboff, outlined the guiding principles that lie behind the proposed reconstruction of the synagogue.
Included among those principles is the goal to “attract new opportunities and ventures for Shaarey Zedek”. While there was no specific mention of the loss of major life cycle events, including weddings and B’nai Mitzvahs, to other venues in recent years, the proposed renovations would certainly bring the Shaarey Zedek up to a much modern level when it comes to offering a venue for social occasions.
During the Number TEN presentation, the representatives of that firm made the following observations about major concerns that members have with the existing building:
• Lack of multifunctionality
• Lack of flexibility
• 85% of the space is used 15% of the time – the existing space can be used more efficiently
They then noted the following priorities:
• Creating a space that is appealing to the next generation (l’dor va dor) through the creation of a modern, comfortable, inviting interior refresh
• Providing opportunities for joint use between the event space and sanctuary
• Creating more flexibility and functionality by providing greater connection between spaces
• Creating a solarium space that takes advantage of the natural light and river access to create a welcoming opportunity space
• Improvements to the health and quality of the building through HAZMAT (Hazardous Material Abatement Program) and improvements to the mechanical, electrical, lighting and AV systems
• Integrating suspendibility into the design
During his remarks, architect Brent Bellamy referred to the longstanding place the Shaarey Zedek has had in the annals of Winnipeg architecture, saying that it is “a masterpiece of modernist architectural design”.
However, some of the most beautiful features of the sanctuary have long been hidden as a result of renovations to the building that were undertaken in the 1970s. Architect Dave Lalama explained that “some beautiful windows (in the sanctuary) are hidden by walls. We want to have them visible.”
The reason those windows became hidden, Lalama went on to note, is that the ventilation system that was installed on the roof was “so heavy – the ceiling had to be dropped” in order to be able to build up the roof to support the added weight.
Making use of existing sunlight is one of their key goals, the architects said, along with offering views of the river from inside the building.
As far as seating goes, there will be a number of options for congregation members to consider, including having armchair seats – as opposed to the current benches, also opening up the chapel area so that there is no barrier between the chapel and the main sanctuary. (During the question and answer session, however, more than a few participants voiced objections to removing the barrier between the chapel and the sanctuary, saying that the close-knit atmosphere in the chapel is what makes it so attractive.)
Following the presentation by Number TEN, two representatives of Akman Construction, Jared Akman and Marshall Weinstein, spoke about the remediation and renovation of the building which Akman will undertake. The remediation process is about to begin sometime in the spring of 2022, Akman said. (Akman Construction has been involved in the planning process for four years, according to Weinstein, who is the project manager.)
Weinstein explained that the renovation in the 1970s “covered up asbestos”. As a result, he said, “the whole ceiling has to come out”.
During the remediation process, “everyone will have to come out of the building,” Weinstein added.
The components of the remediation process will include:
• Removal of the interior ceiling and replacement of the entire roof
• Removal of tiles
• Replacement of mechanical systems. As Marshall Weinstein explained, “All piping has asbestos that will have to be removed.”
Following the remediation process, which Weinstein said will last from six to seven months, the renovation and construction process, which is expected to last another 20-22 months, will commence.
During the period of remediation and renovation the Shaarey Zedek is planning on making its temporary home in the Masonic Lounge, which is situated at Confusion Corner, Neil Duboff said.