imagining the possibilities
On October 4, 2007, an event hosted by Heritage Vancouver and the Vancouver Arts and Cultures Forum was held at the Vogue Theatre to explore what we are doing, what we are interested in doing, and what we could be doing about the future of theatres in Vancouver, and particularly three heritage theatres, the Vogue Theatre, the Pantages Theatre, and the York Theatre, which the community was at risk of losing. Shortly after the York Theatre was purchased for demolition and redevelopment into residential condominiums. The theatre, arts, and heritage communities were unhappy and distressed at the loss.
In early December I invited a small group of community leaders concerned about what had happened, including Stan Hamilton who had just been recognized as the Board Member of the Year by the Alliance for Arts and Cultures, to a conversation. Stan Hamilton was the President of the Board of Directors for the Arts Club Theatre, a faculty member at University of British Columbia in Real Estate and Financing, and was familiar with the Stanley Theatre restoration and their relationship with Industrial Alliance.
He contributed a number of questions and possibilities we could explore. Who is or could be interested in preserving the theatre? What interest is there from possible users? Who might commit to becoming a renter? What would it take to restore and upgrade the space? What would it cost to make it a useable space? Who could finance the project in the short term? Who might operate the theatre?
The question we were focused on was what we could do to save the theatre from being demolished for residential development. The only idea Stan Hamilton could come up with was to try to attract a community minded investor to buy the theatre back from the developer and hold it until the community had time to explore the other questions and possibilities for creating a future for the theatre for our community.
The opportunity to Save the York Theatre was published and sent to the community created by the Vancouver Arts and Cultures Forum. Within two weeks, two expressions of interest came from the community, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre offered to operate the theatre, appreciative of more capacity, and the City of Vancouver, the property owner, the community investor, and the community leaders who had gathered around the idea of saving the theatre began exploring what could be done to create the possibilities imagined.
Saving the York Theatre would not have happened without the idea. It also may not have happened without communicating the idea and the story of the opportunity. It is a story of imagining the possibilities, communicating ideas, and creating opportunities for creative contribution and creative community enterprise.