The term "wide load" has new meaning for Minneapolis. Last summer, the city completed a salvage effort that entailed moving the Shubert Theater to a new site a quarter-mile away.

The 1910 brick building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was used as a performance venue, a burlesque theater and a movie theater, until 1983 when it closed permanently because of poor attendance. Early last year, officials even considered demolishing the building as the city undertook downtown redevelopment.

A structural analysis concluded that the building was still fit for use, but no local developers were interested in renovating the structure. They wanted the lot cleared for new construction.

However, the theater's usability and its historical value prevented its demolition, according to George Kissinger, project manager for the Minneapolis Community Development Agency. The city decided to move the seven-story theater to a vacant space adjacent to a performing arts complex where it would likely be profitable again. The 5.8-million-pound structure would have to be moved about 700 feet across one intersection, making five major turns.

The project began with removal of debris and non-load-bearing walls, and installation of interior shoring and bracing. Crews then cut 100 holes in the building 2.5 feet above floor level to separate the building and foundation. Because the building was moved without its floor, workers installed 50 steel beams totaling 500,000 pounds to help stabilize it.

Workers raised the building by alternating hydraulic lifts with cribbing insertions to lift it 8 feet above the foundation. It was supported by 22,000 oak blocks and eight 9-ton, 90-foot-long steel rocker beams. The crew secured 70 eight-wheel dollies (each about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle) to the beams.

To reach the destination, the theater made a total of five major turns. That move required workers to manually turn each of the 70 dollies' tires to change directions; to stay on track, some of the wheels had to be adjusted every 3 to 4 feet.

One of the biggest challenges of the move was crossing the intersection, Kissinger says. On a weekday, the street had to be closed for several hours while crews moved the theater across it. When it arrived at the new location, the dollies were used to move the building onto its new foundation. "It was a smooth move," Kissinger says. International Chimney, Buffalo, N.Y.; Stubbs Movers, Minneapolis; and Expert House Movers, Sharptown, Md., completed the lift, move and replacement in about a week.

The $4 million project was funded by the Minneapolis Community Development Agency. Artspace, a locally based national nonprofit organization that specializes in creating affordable living and working space for artists, purchased the theater from the city for $1. The organization plans to raise $22.5 million to refurbish the theater, which will be used as a dance performance venue.

The move resulted in a Guinness World Record for the heaviest building moved on wheels. The theater will be featured in an upcoming television special produced by Guinness.