Conversation – York Theatre

Dear Mayor and Council,

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.

Tanya Dixon-Warren
Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance

Dear Mayor and Council,

I strongly encourage Council to support the continuance of the York Theatre for the benefit of the Vancouver and those who live here. There is no need to re-iterate the strongly positive points in the staff report, the VECC & Support the York ad hoc groups as well as the various arts groups presentations. We NEED more theatre space in Vancouver to encourage & expand the vibrant the vibrant theatre life the city is becoming internationally known for. We NEED to conserve our cultural heritage buildings & history & turn the building to constructive community arts use. We NEED to extend our maintainance & development of community in a city that is fast growing; where quick growth can deteriorate the connections necessary for healthy populations.

Please, please support the retention and revitalization of the York Theatre.

Elizabeth Murdoch

Dear Mayor and Council,

Re the Grand Old Duke of York

On behalf of the 10,000 men, who hope theirs isn’t a futile march, I implore you to save the York Theatre. We have so few small theatres in this city and we continue to lose them, a part of our cultural and architectural heritage, as we did with the demise of the art deco building at Georgia and Richards and the Venus Theatre at Main and Union.

I work in the performing arts business, volunteer in several musical societies and enjoy concerts and performances in venues all over the lower mainland. I know first-hand how short we are of small theatre space.

On one hand Vancouver is just turning the corner with respect to acknowledging the importance of the arts and passionate leaders in the field are paving the way for a richer existence for us all. We need our city planners to be in step with this. Please do our city proud, especially as the York is already a purpose-built theatre, one that deserves to be restored and refurbished.

Thank you
Helen Hardisty and Phil Baudin
Kay Meek Centre

Dear Mayor and Council,

I believe that Vancouver is lacking performance spaces and that the historic York Theatre should remain as a theatre in our community. The Arts has the capacity to express the nature and soul of a community. This can be seen around the world.

For example New York City is, among other things, a tourist magnet because of its arts community. It is recognized around the world for its arts community because it has been well supported, economically and spiritually by its citizens and governing bodies.

World recognition of the arts in New York city translates to enormous revenue in so many other sectors. It is good business to support the arts.

Ironically, New York City is in danger of losing this magnetism due to the same pressure we feel in Vancouver, the pressure that makes us consider demolishing the York Theatre: highly valued real estate.

Please do everything in your power to maintain this historic theatre and to keep the arts alive and well in Vancouver. It is good for so many other businesses.

Edward Henderson
Vancouver BC

Dear Mayor and Council,

Please give serious consideration to preserving the York theatre. Vancouver has far too few heritage buildings which have been preserved. This is an opportunity for the city and could be a dynamic cultural resource for the community.

Thank you for thoughtful consideration,
Leslie Adams

Dear Mayor and Council,

Vancouver needs more performance spaces. In order to be a world class city it needs to support arts and culture – and I know that this new council knows that.

And more…the York is a heritage building. Spaces like this are not built anymore. It CANNOT be mowed down for condos…

There is a plan. It is so close to being saved and to becoming a viable theatre space for this city. It is up to you. Please save it!

Colleen Lanki
Artistic Director

Dear Mayor and Council,

In The Power of the Arts in Vancouver: Creating a Great City, VanCity’s analysis of the local creative sector, we concluded that the arts play a critical role in the economy by generating the raw material, the innovation and ideas that creative enterprises adopt and adapt into content and product.

To better understand the sector, we undertook a mapping exercise which argued that creative production our community was focused in a “fertile crescent” around the Eastern rim of False Creek: from the Downtown Eastside it runs East through Strathcona to Commercial Drive, South, then West to the Great Northern Campus and Mount Pleasant.

At least, such a focus of activity exists today. Its continued viability and growth is not guaranteed but needs to be cultivated, supported and allowed to achieve scale. However, the prolonged property boom of recent years presents a significant challenge to our artistic community: access to affordable and appropriate creative space.

It is clear that as the “condo tsunami” moves East, artists are being forced out of the creative heart of our city and into marginal spaces and isolation from the broader community, with impending negative consequences for our economy and the quality of life in our neighbourhoods.

In this context, the York Theatre represents a tremendous opportunity. A revitalized York would increase the limited supply of creative space, its location would contribute to a nascent creative district -given the proximity of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Britannia Community Centre, and the gallery and theatre at the Havana Restaurant- and it would build on the long history of performance at the venue.

I urge you to seize this opportunity to invest in our community and economy, our past and a future of creative growth.

Elvy Del Bianco
Research Associate

Dear Mayor and Council,

We strongly support the plan to save the York Theatre. The Commercial Drive Village is now becoming internationally famous as a cultural destination. A 500 seat procenium theatre is an incredible asset to this area and the city of Vancouver as a whole. If we lose it, it will never be replaced. Please vote in favour of 100% rezoning credits for the theatre.

Yours truly,
Sharon Van Volkingburgh
Jim Kinzel
William Butler
Laura Kinzel
Adrienne Kinzel

Dear Mayor and Council,

I first became involved with the York Theatre when I came to Vancouver in 1968, and remained involved with it for the next decade, until the Vancouver Little Theatre Association regretfully had to sell it. It is a fine theatre, and one of the few left on the east side of Vancouver that can be used for live theatre presentations. I earnestly request that you consider the plan to restore the York to its former usefulness as a live theatre venue.

Thank you.
Barbara-Anne Eddy

Dear Mayor and Council,

I rarely make my opinions known in public; it’s just not my style. But I feel that I must share my opinion with you in the hope that you will decide to restore the York Theatre.

I have dedicated the last ten years of my life to the theatre, after I became a lawyer. I have written, directed, produced and acted in many plays – several in Vancouver.

It is obvious to me, and I hope to you as well, that a thriving city requires many venues for live performance. Without live performance, our society loses that human-to-human connection. I trained in the acting technique of the great Sanford Meisner in his school the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Meisner was a founding member of the Group Theatre in the 1930s, when people needed to connect to each other in desperate times, times that are cycling through again.

A large part of what makes the Big Apple so great, is that it cares about its performance spaces, from 30-seat black boxes to 1500-seat Broadway theatres. I had the good fortune to usher and see over 300 plays when I studied there. New York City is North America’s “mecca” for the theatre. Why can’t Vancouver be Canada’s theatre “mecca?”

When we are judged by history, when our city is judged by future generations, do you think they will remember that housing development at the foot of Commercial Drive? Or will they remember that the city restored a link to its past, infused it with life, and gave performers a chance to tell stories in a LIVE venue, at a place that was expressly designed for that purpose? We need to treasure what we already have.

Please see this link for the old photos and current ones, and try to imagine what a fully-restored, beautiful venue the York could be.

Russell Bennett, B.Sc., LL.B.

Dear Mayor and Council,

As someone who has been interested in, involved with, and an advocate of enhancing the City’s cultural infrastructure, I commend the Council in its September 9, 2008 meeting for confirming the historic value of the York Theatre and its ability to provide the City with a much needed 400-500 seat theatre venue.

However the 120 day study period has little value if at the end there is a not a viable solution to save, restore and operate the building. If the city fails to act properly the owner has a right to exercise its demolition permit and this valuable theatre and piece of history will disappear on your watch. In my view it is clear. If the City doesn’t want to see the building demolished it has three choices:

1. Buy and or expropriate the building and buy time to fund and realize the project properly.

2 Accept $10-11 million from the developer/donor in exchange for higher density to be negotiated.

3. Declare the building a Heritage site if that could be done in a timely fashion.

Regrettably the staff report is the equivalent of throwing a 33 foot line to a person drowning in the water 100 feet from the boat.

In situations like this, when it is clear the project has merit, the building should be saved, restored and operated as a theatre. The City must take a pro-active role in bringing parties together to find a solution or buy sufficient time until a solution is found.

The success of this project will not only add to the cultural infra-structure of the City, but could aid immeasurably to enhancing the economic, cultural and social life of the neighborhood surrounding this building.

I wish to add my voice to others to urge you to preserve, restore, and operate the York Theatre as a home for live theatre.

Herb Auerbach
Founding Director, Bill Reid Foundation
Life Governor, National Theatre School of Canada
Founding Director, Centaur Theatre, Montreal PQ
Past Board Member, Vancouver Playhouse

Dear Mayor and Council,

I’m disheartened at the proposed demolition of yet another once great building, the York Theatre.

This rampant disregard for the value of what has been our history is a failure for future generations that I believe we at this time do not have a right to carry out.

In most other great cities, buildings are cherished and revitalized and this is exactly what creates the fantastic urban texture that makes them indeed great cities.

This short-sighted vision based solely upon greed and real estate profiteering is an embarrassment to what I had hoped we were finally evolving into as an international city.

It is imperative that we remain determined to celebrate the architectural gems that have designated the great steps in our historical development for future generations.

Thank you for taking the time to read my email.

Tiko Kerr

Dear Mayor Robertson, dear Council members,

Please ensure the future of the York Theatre

I understand that the future of the York Theatre is once again at a critical juncture and I wish to add my voice to those who are calling for the City of Vancouver to do whatever possible to save this precious venue from demolition, and to assist in its restoration as a performing arts space.

While I understand that granting a 100% transfer of density to the prospective buyer is not in line with previous City practice, I feel strongly that this is an exceptional situation.

One of the things that comes up in any general discussion about the performing arts in Vancouver, and more specifically concert performances, is the chronic lack of suitable space with good acoustics for performing high-quality music, particularly in the 500- seat range.

Indeed it is my belief that the lack of such spaces has been a strongly inhibiting factor in the development of the mid-scale musical organizations in the City. This category includes many of the fabulous choirs and instrumental ensembles which inhabit the city and which too often end up performing in churches with hard seats, poor sight-lines and totally inappropriate facilities on stage, off stage and for the audience.

The York Theatre could be a most beautiful facility for these performances, and be a response to something that so many have been crying out for for so long. In my travels as a musician around the world I have seen how a fine space can stimulate, invigorate and excite performers and audiences alike. Vancouver needs this theatre, with all its history and potential, to be preserved.

Respectfully (and hopefully) yours,

Marc Destrubé
Artistic Director, Pacific Baroque Orchestra 1991-2007 Member, Turning Point Ensemble First violinist, Axelrod String Quartet (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC) Co-concertmaster, Orchestra of the 18th Century (Amsterdam, Netherlands) Former concertmaster, CBC Radio Orchestra

PS Tom Durrie, a precious jewel among the citizens of Vancouver, should surely be rewarded with third-time-lucky for all his repeated and heroic efforts to save this theatre!

Dear Mayor and Council,

To demolish this fine theatrical legend would be a huge loss to the Vancouver and indeed the Lower Mainland community. It has stood as a symbol of the birth of theatre in this City for many years and a training ground for numerous BC. performers ,some of whom have gone on to reach the heights of their acting careers.

As a long standing member of that dedicated group I implore City Council to save this building and support the enhancement of it’s restoration to once more become a focal point in the theatrical life of East Vancouver and Lower Mainland citizens.

Respectfully yours,
Clifford Cox
Board Director: Theatre Under The Stars
Founder and Artistic Director: Savoy Players BC and Western Concert Opera BC
Founder: Hamilton Opera Company Ontario

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am a professional violinist in Vancouver and as such, see a real need in Vancouver for a mid-sized theatre with terrific acoustical characteristics as a venue for performing organizations like Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Early Music Vancouver.

I would urge you to safeguard the wellbeing of these organizations by granting a transfer of density to cover 100% of the restoration costs of the York Theatre.

We need a place like the York for our performances and this theatre can represent a vital performance hub for the vibrant musical organizations that contribute so much to our quality of life and to the economy of Vancouver.

Thank you for your consideration.
Paul Luchkow

Dear Mayor and Council,

As a winter festival presenter in Vancouver, I am keenly aware of the need for good, flexible, utilitarian space for presenting live performing arts, especially during inclement weather. I am also, as a winter festival presenter, keenly aware of the deficit of such space currently available in the city, especially on the east side.

The Vancouver East Cultural Centre Society’s proposal to save and operate the York Theatre is one that has merit and deserves serious consideration by this council.

Misguided staff recommendations have already nearly cost this city the Pantages Theatre project on the downtown eastside. Please support the York Theatre initiative and approve the density transfer of 100% of the value of the restoration.

At a debate with former Councillor Peter Ladner on October 26 at the Arts Club Theatre, Mr. Robertson said that building projects align with Vision Vancouver’s fight against homelessness, as facilities like the Pantages and the York create cultural centres in parts of the city that are crying out for celebrations and acts of creation. Where there is art and music and creativity, there is hope, and where there is hope, there is a willingness to act in the interests of the greater community.

Now that you are Mayor, Mr. Robertson, this is your opportunity to act in the interests of the greater community.

Because I am in the midst of finalizing several million little details in the planning for the 2009 PuSh Festival, I cannot attend the Council meeting on Thursday December 18, but I trust that this message will be read and considered along with the many others that I am certain you are receiving.

With many thanks for your time,
Minna Schendlinger
Managing Director, PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

Dear Mayor and Council,

It is simply mind-boggling to me how the city could allow this building to be destroyed with the need for performance space in the city and the fact it is a heritage building, Madness! If Vancouver wants to truly become a world-class city, it needs to support the arts and culture sector and preserve important heritage buildings.

This theatre must not be torn down or renovated to become anything else other than the venue for which is was lovingly built and maintained over the years.

Its heritage is well known. When I was Artistic Director of The Vancouver Little Theatre, I remember so well celebrating its 50th, or it could have been 60th anniversary. On the stage and in the audience were Vancouver’s elite who got their start on the York’s stage: Freddie Wood, Dorothy Somerset, Jessie Richardson, Joy Coghill, Joy Metcalfe, and more and more and more.

The York changed my life beginning in 1953. My first role was in the one act, Sunny Morning, directed by Joan Hall and I was thrilled that we won the one-act play festival of BC. My second role was in Darkness at Noon, directed by Ian Thorne and starring Ivar Harries and later, in the Dominion Drama Festival, when we performed in Sherbrook Quebec. Afterwards, back in the east, John Reed convinced Bill Buck and me to go to New York for three days before heading back to Vancouver. Talk about a heady, life-changing experience!

From that time, I was a changed man. Theatre had bitten hard. I got my BA and MA in Theatre and in 1965 became Artistic Director of The Vancouver Little Theatre, staging countless productions in the York Theatre, including festival winners like Strindberg’s The Father, and Beverley Simons’ The Elephant and the Jewish Questions. Each year I held original play-writing events. I remember well Doris Chilcott starring in M R S Supermom, by Marjorie Morris. (I have three huge scrapbooks of a veritible history of productions that were the only ones entertaining Vancouverites.)

I left Vancouver and the York Theatre in 1977 to work in London. Upon my return,
I was saddened to discover that the Vancouver Little Theatre had given up the York Theatre and have watched, over the past years , this positively wonderful theatre hungrily wait for someone to bring back its glory days.

The York Theatre must not be torn down, must not be turned into anything else other than a live-theatre venue.

John F. Parker


The York Theatre Saved