York Theatre Story

The York Theatre holds a significant place in the history of Vancouver theatre. It is the only purpose built theatre with fly tower and proscenium stage on the east side of the city and one of only two or three such theatres left in Vancouver.

York Theatre Sold
The York Theatre has been sold! A purchaser has come in with a strong offer and has bought the York Theatre. It’s a done deal.

Development Could Mean Curtains for York
If city council doesn’t get behind a campaign to save the building that was most recently the Raja Cinema, it could be demolished within four months, says Tom Durrie.

Save the York Theatre
A group of community members who are interested in saving and restoring the York Theatre met at City Hall on December 6, 2007 with the new owner of the York Theatre and a number of representatives from the Planning Department, Cultural Affairs, and Heritage Group for the City of Vancouver.

York Theatre History
In the late 1970′s, were diminishing somewhat, Vancouver Little Theatre Association had no plans to sell the York Theatre. Indeed, their intention was to reshape it.



A Place in Vancouver Theatre History
The Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance wishes to express its strongest possible support for a civic initiative to help preserve and revitalize this precious and historic cultural facility. We think it would be a great shame if Vancouver loses one if its landmark theatres, a venue which represents a significant part of Vancouver’s cultural history.

A History and Vision for the York Theatre
In 1913, the young city of Vancouver was riding the crest of a period of economic and cultural growth that had fostered a flourishing of theatre and theatre construction. No less than twelve legitimate theatres were operating at the time the Alcazar Theatre at 639 Commercial Drive was opened. The other theatres were located in the downtown area, but the little Alcazar was built in a new and developing part of town on the slopes just east of False Creek. In 1912, a Mr. VanHarlinger and his wife opened a music and drama recital hall on the main floor of the apartment block where they lived at 635 Commercial Drive. But their sights were set higher than a mere recital hall, and they appealed to Robert MacLaren, a retired oil geologist from Calgary living in Vancouver, to build for them an appropriate theatre, destined, in their minds, to become a cultural centre for the city.

Buy the York Theatre
Time is running out. The best course of action would be to find someone willing to buy the York Theatre from the new owner and hold it on behalf of the community until these questions could be answered and plans created. The contribution to the community is clear. The land would provide security for someone willing to do this so the risk of losing any capital invested is low. Financing can be arranged to make costs tax deductible. The community will appreciate the contribution and the opportunity is open to be part of the creative team. It could be an individual, a foundation, a business, a community organization like the Coal Harbour Arts Complex Society, or a cooperative of contributors. The property was purchased by the developer for just under a million dollars.

Townhouses Planned for the York Theatre Site
The new owners of the York Theatre on Commercial Drive plan to replace the theatre with eco-friendly townhouses. Paul Phillips, president of EDG Homes Inc., which purchased the property last October as Vintage Development Corp. with business partners Small Favours Pictures Limited and 0805122 BC Limited, told the Straight he is not interested in preserving the theatre. “Our interest is to develop an environmentally sensitive, LEED-certified townhome development there—a cutting-edge property,” he said by phone. “It will be townhomes with attached garages, with roof gardens and low-toxicity materials.”

City Hall Discusses York Theatre
James Boldt, heritage planner with the city, explained to the Straight that the theatre appears to meet the requirements for heritage status. “Our feeling is that it would be eligible for the register, but it hasn’t been fully reviewed yet,” he said. “At this stage we’re just trying to bring some parties together and start looking at options involving retention of the theatre.”

Last Opportunity to Save the York Theatre
Council’s decision will determine the future of the York Theatre. If Council approves the staff recommendation to grant a transfer of density to cover one-third of the restoration costs, the York Theatre will be demolished. If Council approves the prospective buyer’s request to grant a transfer of density to cover 100% of the restoration costs, the York Theatre will be restored. The Save the York Theatre Society is asking Council to approve a density transfer of 100% of the value of the restoration.

City Offers Density to Save York Theatre
Vancouver developer Bruno Wall has offered to spend up to $12 million to buy and restore the historic York Theatre, now slated to be torn down Jan. 15 to make way for townhomes. Wall has also offered to hand ownership to the city — in exchange for development rights equivalent to a 20-storey building, to be built on an as-yet undetermined city site. After learning that Wall had stepped forward with cash that arts groups and theatre fans have failed for years to raise, council agreed to offer Wall the unusual density deal to encourage him to proceed with the purchase. Heather Redfern, director of the Vancouver Eastside Cultural Centre that would run the new theatre, applauded the move.

The York Theatre Saved
Early this afternoon, City Council unanimously passed a motion to allow a density bonus equal to 100% of the cost of the restoration and renovation of the York Theatre. This means that the developer can proceed with negotiations to purchase. His name is Bruno Wall, and he is a long time supporter of the arts, and a theatre enthusiast. This is a great day for Vancouver! It clearly demonstrates that we now have a City Council that is sending a positive message of support to arts and culture groups and their audiences.

Conversation – York Theatre
Contributions to the story from the community.

The Cultch celebrates 40 years reopening of historic York
New York, New York! That could be the birthday tune as the Cultch celebrates its 40th anniversary with the opening of a third stage, reopening the historic York Theatre in December 2013 with a local take on Old English Christmas traditions, an East Van Panto by Theatre Replacement.