[Friday, June 20, 2014] The Save the Hollywood Coalition has released a comprehensive plan to reinvent the Hollywood Theatre as a heritage-designated, public arts and culture venue. The business plan, presented to the City’s General Manager of Community Services, Brenda Prosken, provides a detailed accounting of the Coalition’s vision for acquisition, renewal and operation of the Hollywood in the context of Vancouver’s broader arts and culture landscape and relevant City policy.
Recommendations by Vancouver’s Creative City Task Force led to the City’s adoption of a new Culture Plan for Vancouver 2008 – 2018 that seeks to “increase public participation and community engagement in arts and culture” by “promoting local arts and culture” and by “improving arts access for new and under-served communities”.
At this very moment the City is updating its register of cultural spaces through an interactive, on-line mapping project and results unfortunately confirm what locals already know; that there’s a significant lack of cultural capacity on Vancouver’s westside. The iconic Ridge Theatre and the Cellar Jazz Club are only the latest casualties, and not because these cultural enterprises weren’t successful, but rather because they were simply swept aside in the wake of Vancouver’s surging property market.
City Hall is well aware of this dilemma. At a recent forum organized by Vision Vancouver, titled “Protecting Vancouver’s Cultural Spaces: Preserving Culture In A Growing City”, Councilor Heather Deal was perfectly honest in admitting that “the City could do a lot better” and the Coalition agrees. In fact, thanks to an amendment put forward by Councilor Deal in November of last year, the City’s Heritage Action Plan was adopted with specific direction to “assist community objectives for heritage preservation” with respect to the Hollywood Theatre.
So, why is the City sitting on the fence and keeping the Coalition on the sidelines as negotiations between the Hollywood’s owner and the Point Grey Community Church appear to be headed for an outcome that will neither protect the Hollywood’s heritage nor realize its fullest potential as an arts and culture venue for the broader community?
The Coalition’s recent request for a status update and meeting was met with the following response from Brian Jackson, the City’s General Manager of Planning and Development:
“We have nothing new to report since our last correspondence on this issue. My understanding is that negotiations between a willing seller and willing purchaser are continuing. As I mentioned during our meeting, if you have someone who is interested in purchasing the Hollywood Theatre, they should contact (the owner) as soon as possible. I do not think it would be productive to have a meeting with city staff until this has occurred.”
What’s clear is that City Hall does not want to own the Hollywood. What’s not clear is why.
There is surely no shortage of precedents to confirm the stability and value of city-owned cultural spaces, now numbering more than 50 and with the majority operated by non-profit arts and culture organizations. As secure public assets and with the benefit of favourable leases and property tax exemption, these city-owned cultural spaces are uniquely viable and offer unmatched long-term stability in the context of Vancouver’s soaring property market. There is simply no evidence to suggest that any other model is capable of delivering similar public-use capacity.
The Coalition is confident that a city-owned outcome is achievable for the Hollywood and that it is the only outcome that will enable the theatre to realize its fullest potential. By transferring buildable density from the Hollywood site to the owner’s adjacent property, and by waiving related development fees (DCLs), the residual value of the Hollywood can be dramatically reduced and potentially written off. Far from unaffordable, the Hollywood represents a unique opportunity to establish a landmark arts and culture venue for a tiny fraction of its value. Failure to seize the moment would deprive the City and its taxpayers of a very attractive investment.
Extensive market research and consultation with arts and culture organizations across Vancouver has confirmed strong demand for additional media/screen and live presentation space and the Hollywood is uniquely suited to supply both. Conservative budget figures presented in the Coalition’s plan demonstrate the Hollywood’s potential to be a fiscally sustainable enterprise while contributing very productively to Vancouver’s cultural capacity. Strategically located on the Broadway Corridor and in the heart of Kitsilano, the Hollywood is perfectly positioned to entertain and inspire an under-served public that is destined to grow.
It’s time to put the Hollywood back on the map! From Creative City to Engaged City the Coalition’s plan to Reinvent the Hollywood is perfectly aligned with a broad array of progressive city policy. Dig in. Read all about it.
Why is City Hall avoiding the Hollywood’s brightest future?