Early this year, I got involved in a project through my friend Kevin McKeown over at Publicity Plus Event Marketing. It was a project that was close to my heart, and every single person who got involved in it worked for free because we all believed in it so deeply.
Vancouver’s Pantages Theatre, opened in 1908, is it is the oldest surviving theatre in Vancouver, and the oldest purpose-built vaudeville theatre in Canada. It is also the oldest surviving Pantages theatre in North America. In 2005, developer Marc Williams bought the property and the four adjoining ones to the west. The plan was to gut and restore the 650-seat theatre (which has incredible acoustics), build a new lobby, a new entrance, an art gallery, and 130+ units of social housing.
On April 16, 2008, after many, many tours, meetings, and getting people on board, we had a press conference announcing Williams’ $26 million development plan. It was attended by media, members of the arts community, and the Downtown East Side, and it was a huge success.
This theatre is magic. I don’t know any other way of describing it. Being in there was amazing. Even though the theatre is derelict and falling down, the energy is incredible. The history of that building, and its potential impact its resident companies, specifically, and the Vancouver arts community in general, is immense.
I have just received word from Kevin that the property has been put up for sale by the developer. According to Williams: “We tried for over three years to find a financially viable proposal that would satisfy the many interests at stake. Ultimately, we could not. The Pantages was a very powerful idea. The theatre, the housing, the retail businesses – the combination was extraordinary. I was proud to have been a part of it. I am so disappointed we could not make it work.”
According to CTV news, the issue is that “the city wants more time to study the $26-million restoration plan that would be funded by governments at a number of levels.”
My understanding is that, during this time when politics are at the forefront, in anticipation of a municipal
Vancouver needs the Pantages. The Arts community desperately needs more performance space. The Downtown East Side would benefit both from the social housing, and access to and involvement with cultural events in their own neighborhood.