Hope still alive for Hollywood Theatre

Heritage motion, potential new owner could save theatre from wrecking ball

Devotees of the Hollywood Theatre are heading into the holidays with hope.

City council unanimously passed a multi-pronged heritage conservation motion Dec. 4 that could help save the cultural space.

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The Save the Hollywood Coalition met with the city Dec. 10 and according to Brian Jackson, the city’s general manager of planning and development, the group plans to meet with property owner Dino Bonnis.

Mel Lehan, spokesperson for the Hollywood coalition wouldn’t say Dec. 10 whether the meeting with Bonnis had been scheduled, but he said the group has found someone interested in buying and preserving the theatre, contingent on ongoing discussions.

The heritage action plan allows the city to be more flexible with conditional zoning and policy when it comes to saving significant cultural resources, including the Hollywood Theatre.

Jackson noted Bonnis owns 100 feet of commercial buildings next to the theatre. Present zoning allows buildings there to be four storeys.

“The problem is that that would not provide enough of a financial incentive for the owner to really want to save the Hollywood Theatre,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the city might have to consider allowing increased heights for adjacent buildings or applying a façade grant.

“Certainly the issue of looking at our cultural resources, first of all identifying them and then coming up with a strategy, may have had an influence on the Ridge Theatre,” Jackson conceded.

Jackson noted the heritage action plan directs staff to complete the most comprehensive review and update of the city’s heritage program since it was established in 1986. Consultants will be hired to update the city’s heritage registry with the help of residents identifying the areas, buildings, trees and landscapes they value.

The city will also look at ways to protect character homes that are not necessarily considered heritage. Some Craftsman or Victorian-style homes may not be old or important enough to appear on the city’s heritage registry “but they add character to the neighbourhood,” Jackson said.

The city will consider potential incentives for reusing building materials, charging additional fees for applications that involve the demolition of a character home and “a Kitsilano-type of zoning” that allows people extra density and to stratify homes in exchange for preserving a character home and adding it to the city’s heritage registry.

Council clarified for staff that they no longer have to consider applications for extra density if the applicant isn’t doing enough to save a character home.

Jackson said, in the short term, the city’s going to try to streamline application processes for those trying to save heritage homes, consider increasing demolition fees for pre-1940 houses, and seek senior government support for tax incentives including grants or tax credits.

The city will look at Kitsilano-type zoning for other areas of the city in the medium to long term, consider proclaiming part of Shaughnessy a heritage conservation district and extend the heritage retention program in the Downtown Eastside, which includes façade grants and property tax exemptions, until the end of 2014. The city wants to see if such incentives should be applied to other areas of the city.

Council approved $450,000 in consultant costs to cover the work. Jackson expects a consultant to be hired and work on the heritage registry to begin in the first quarter of 2014.


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