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.
The York Theatre seats approximately 500 people and, according to a survey conducted by the Coal Harbour Arts Complex Society, there are 915 potential uses annually for a theatre in this size range.
The theatre was purchased by a developer in October 2007 who planned to demolish the theatre to build residential units.
A group of community members interested in saving and restoring the York Theatre met at City Hall on December 6, 2007 with a number of representatives from the Planning Department, Cultural Affairs, and Heritage Group for the City of Vancouver and the new owner of the York Theatre.
The Save the York Theatre Society began looking for a purchaser interested in restoring and reopening the York Theatre to buy the theatre from the new owner. The Vancouver East Cultural Centre who could benefit from this kind of theatre facility expressed an interest in taking on the programming and management of the theatre.
A prospective new buyer is exploring the possibility of buying the theatre for use by the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.
City staff concluded that the York Theatre at 639 Commercial Drive has heritage value and potentially could fill an important need for a cultural venue of this size and in this part of the city. While a development permit has been submitted to replace the existing building, staff are recommended and the City approved a temporary protection order of 120 days of the building on September 18, 2008 in order to allow a feasibility assessment to be completed and retention options to be explored.
The report and recommendation include background information on the York and the Save the York Theatre Society.