Only a little more than a year ago, on April 16, 2008, I was part of a huge celebration that took place at Vancouver’s 100-year-old Pantages Theatre on Hastings St. The event was attended by, and featured the talents of, some of Vancouver’s elite, including Christopher Gaze and Dal Richards. It was a huge success, and hope was high–on that day, we announced the $26-million plan to restore the theatre by developer Marc Williams.
It looks like that dream has died.
In October, 2008, it was announced that the future of the Pantages was in jeopardy. Hung up in red tape at City Hall, the developer put the property up for sale. Every month the building sits empty, it costs him in the range of $30,000.
On December 9, members of the Pantages Theatre Society presented an early Christmas gift to the then-new Mayor, Gregor Robertson. It was a book that included more than 350 letters of support for the Pantages, and a plea to the Mayor to reopen negotiations.
On December 19, City Council voted to allow the owner of the York Theatre, Bruno Wall, a density transfer, and that Vancouver landmark was saved, and a $12 million restoration is in the works. Hopes were high that City Council might consider something similar for the Pantages.
The Pantages Theatre Society’s website has been taken down, and a source close to them told me that the building did not fare well during this past (heavy) winter.
In an email from Dr. Charles Barber, head of the PTS, he said:
Ten years from now, after this 101-year old dazzler is demolished and replaced by utter mediocrity, people will wonder how we could have been so stupid.
It makes me incredibly sad to report this. I recently attended a backstage tour of the Moore Theatre in Seattle, whose archetecture was so strikingly similar to our Pantages. This is because the archetect that assisted in designing the Moore, was the archetech for our Pantages. The two theatres opened within a year of each other. Seeing the Moore was like seeing the potential of the Pantages, if we could only get there.
In this city, any indepenndent theatre producer will tell you one of our greatest challenges is finding spaces to produce our plays. The restoration plan for the Pantages was to include not just the main 650-seat theatre, but a second, smaller, 99-seat black-box theatre. The plan also included 200 units of social housing. No one can say that homelessness is not a huge problem in our city.
It’s just wrong.
You can see all my past posts on the Pantages here.