27 December 2009

You may have heard that the Pantages Theatre Arts Society has given up its three-year long fight to restore the historic theatre on East Hastings Street in Vancouver's downtown east side (DES). It is not because we have abandoned the many social, economic, heritage and cultural objectives inherent in the proposals that have been put forward to the City of Vancouver (and others). Simply put, the theatre has deteriorated to such a point that there is virtually nothing left to restore.

Its decades-long deterioration was exacerbated by a roof fire last summer, which resulted in the fire department cutting holes in the roof to ensure that the fire was contained. Since then, the stage has collapsed into the basement, the balcony is no longer safe and, according to the owner's engineering consultant, the building is now structurally 'stressed'. Indeed, because of insurance and liability issues, it is no longer safe to enter the building to retrieve anything of historical significance. Those of you who have toured the theatre over the past three years, or participated in any of our events, would not recognize the theatre in its current state.

As you know, we came within a whisker of saving the building about a year ago when we thought we had the full support of Vancouver City Council to purchase the theatre and adjoining properties for a combination theatre restoration and social housing project.

However, Council opted instead to undertake further studies on the project -- despite the fact that we have been warning everyone for years that a decision was required soonest, or there may not be anything left to restore. Alas, our prediction has come true even sooner than we had guessed.

Our Society is committed to working with any and all local groups/governments/private sector participants to ensure that whatever happens to this site reflects and maintains the principles and objectives we have been pursuing for the past three years. That includes a cultural amenity space (a new theatre), total community participation and involvement that bring together the needs and interests of local residents and the wider Vancouver community, that engages as a unifying force the DES, Chinatown, Gastown, and Strathcona districts, and acts as an anchor to change fundamentally this block of Vancouver -- not only in the interests of current and future residents, but also in respect of the residents that have come before us.

On behalf of my Board and the members of our Society, I want to thank you all personally for your interest in the theatre restoration, for your letters/e-mails in support of our endeavors and, particularly, for the political energy you contributed to make this almost happen.

I would also like to thank the owner of the property, Marc Williams, for working with us for more than three years at his own expense because he understood and respected our vision of the Pantages Theatre, both past and future.

Peter Fairchild, Chair
Pantages Theatre Arts Society
PO Box 88393
Vancouver V6A 4A6