Solaris Group Garners Critical Acclaim for Unique Urban Renovation

November 20, 2018

PENTICTON – TIME Winery won big, taking home two major awards at the 10th Annual Thompson Okanagan Kootenay Commercial Building Awards.

The fully-functioning downtown winery took home the Award of Excellence for the Wood category, as well as a Merit Award (runner up) for the Winery category at the event, held September 20 at the Coast Capri Hotel in Kelowna.

“It was a very pleasant surprise,” says Ross Manning who co-owns the Solaris Group of Companies, the project’s general contractor, with Rocky Los. “This was our first major commercial project in the Okanagan, and we were very happy with the result.”

Located in downtown Penticton, TIME Winery includes space for production, storage, tasting, and a restaurant.
The project was built revitalizing the former PenMar Theatre, which closed in 2012.

Harry McWatters, the building’s owner, was looking for somewhere to build a winery here in Penticton, and somebody showed him this old fir and concrete block building,” says Manning. “The old part was built in 1954, and there was an addition in the early 2000s, but he didn’t realize exactly how much work was needed to update the building and get it up to code.”
The design (begun by the late Nick Bevanda, and completed by Robert Cesnik and Dan Sawyer of HDR | CEI Architecture Associates Inc.) tried to maintain as much of the heritage of the original building as possible.

The original wood ceiling panels were kept and restored in the back of the production areas, which include the tank room, the barrel room, and case-goods storage.  High end finishes were used, as well as cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam beams, some of which form the wood truss supporting the second-floor office space.

“When we began the demolition stage, we found old arch rib beams which were from the original roof from the 50s,” says Manning. “We retrofitted the roof and refurbished it.”

“That feature was a plus for us, as well,” said McWatters. “The production area looks like a barrel because of the wood.”

In all, the project took two years, finishing the wine-producing area in the back within the first year, and the front-end area during the second year.

“It’s the first urban winery in Canada,” says Manning. “It features a full crush pad, tank and barrel fermentation area, bottling and storage all under one roof, with a tasting bar, dining area and a retail area.”

Before McWatters and Encore Vineyards took ownership of the building, it was going to be transformed into a performing arts building for live theatre before the arts organization ran out of money.  McWatters decided to keep space for a multi-purpose performing arts area, which Solaris is still renovating.

A project this unique required creative collaboration between the builder, general contractor, and the architect.

“The architect, who was a good friend, Nick Bevanda, had set up the base of how the building was going to look, but unfortunately, he passed away half way through the project,” says Manning. “With the help of the owners, Nick’s team, as well as ourselves, we were able to pull the vision together.”

Manning and Los started the Solaris Group of Companies four years ago. The two had a professional relationship that spanned decades, first meeting 35 years earlier in Drumheller, Alberta.

Manning has been in the construction business all his life, starting with residential then onto commercial and industrial projects, and has been building high-end custom homes in the Okanagan since 2007.

He founded Solaris to distinguish between residential and commercial construction.

“I left a commercial atmosphere to come to Penticton in 2007, and took on high-end custom homes to establish a foothold in the business,” he says. “I brought Rocky out to help with a few jobs, he liked the area and decided to move out here.”

Los has been building custom homes, commercial and industrial projects since 1991 under Rock Solid Construction Ltd., which holds a Certificate of Recognition (SECOR) in Alberta Construction Safety.  Los is also a journeyman crane operator.

The partners have experience building beam structures on the ground and craning into place. The group was hired to create canopy roofs at the Site C project.

“One of the things that sets our company aparts is our ability to work with wood beams,” says Manning. “We’ve done a lot of this type of work and can take on remote projects as well. With the TIME Winery project, we were able to mill all of the beams ourselves, and didn’t need to involve a third party.”

As the company grows, Manning and Los hope to take on more projects, commercial or industrial, that will be as exciting as Time Winery.

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