A project nine years in the making, the historic Century Theatre is fully open for business once again
Photo: David Brebner and Paul Dugsin
ONE HUNDRED YEARS after it opened as a vaudeville theatre and cinema, the aptly named Century Theatre building is all new, now that the second and final phase of its renovation is complete. What once showcased entertainers such as London’s own Guy Lombardo in the roaring ‘20s is now a funky downtown office space, home to a growing tech firm among others.
The clean lines of its new façade contrast with the complex renovation project and the Byzantine web of business connections that made it happen. But nine years after four partners purchased the building, it is fully restored, another piece in a reworked, reimagined downtown.
“We’re extremely proud that we could restore an almost derelict building and put a mark on downtown London,” says David Brebner, one of the partners of Century Muse Inc., the company created to buy and restore the theatre. A second partner is Paul Dugsin. He and Brebner together own the consulting firm Magnus Associates, where Dugsin works full-time.
“We’re extremely proud that we could restore an almost derelict building and put a mark on downtown London” —David Brebner
Their Muse partners are Phil and Bob Macdonald, brothers who own and operate Elemex Inc., a cutting-edge exterior cladding firm, as well as Woollatt Building Supply and J.A. Macdonald Ltd., a wall and ceiling company created by their father.
“The four of us have been friends for a long time,” says Dugsin. “Some of our kids went to the same school.”
The first phase of the renovation was 192 Dundas Street, which was converted to 4,000 square feet of office space four years ago at a cost of about $1 million. The plan was to find a tenant for the first phase to finance work on the larger, more expensive phase, at 194 Dundas.
That’s where Brebner’s many connections and business interests shifted the plan slightly. Wearing his Magnus hat, he began working with the founders of Mobials Inc. The firm does a number of tech things, most of which are designed to deliver leads to business-to-consumer companies. For example, it solicits consumer reviews of cars and dealerships on sites like Autotrader.
Brebner loved the idea so much, he became the fourth partner in the firm 18 months ago, leaving Dugsin to run Magnus. Mobials became the primary tenant at 192 Dundas and waited patiently for phase two at 194 Dundas, which has added about 5,500 square feet of space.
Mobials and Magnus are the primary tenants of the theatre, although a Kenzo Ramen restaurant at street-level in 192 may be more widely known among downtown dwellers than either of the larger tenants. Based in Toronto, the small chain has a rabid following.
Heritage buildings are full of surprises, and the Muse partners came across several over the last nine years. But the heritage aspect is what drew them to the project and what separates the finished product from other downtown office spaces.
“We had great support from the city and the heritage community,” Brebner says. Some tangible support came in the form of a $200,000 interest-free loan for the most recent renovation. “It makes it a little bit easier to do deals like this.” Christopher Clark