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Dreams of saving the Paramount in Chilliwack persist

Laura Reid of Chilliwack said she nominated the Paramount Theatre building over the weekend for Heritage Canada’s Annual Top 10 Endangered Places List. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE
Laura Reid of Chilliwack said she nominated the Paramount Theatre building over the weekend for Heritage Canada’s Annual Top 10 Endangered Places List.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE

Forces are afoot to try to save the old Paramount Theatre building in downtown Chilliwack from the wrecking ball.

But it all may be too little too late.

Chilliwack resident Laura Reid said she nominated the Paramount Theatre building over the weekend for Heritage Canada’s Annual Top 10 Endangered Places List.

"I believe it's a real landmark for downtown, not only the building itself but the old neon sign as well," she said.

Since Chilliwack does not have a heritage advisory committee or heritage foundation, it means historic buildings are "on their own" in the end, she said.

Reid decided to approach the Heritage Canada Foundation on the subject of the Paramount, and is now asking supporters to vote for it as one of Canada's endangered places by sending an email to: heritagecanada@heritagecanada.org.

Reid had some experience researching heritage buildings in Chilliwack while updating an inventory of its older built environment for City of Chilliwack a few years ago, and is encouraged that there is an appetite in Chilliwack to try to save the retro theatre.

But Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she doesn't know why anyone truly concerned about this would wait so long to take action. The request for proposal process is now closed.

"We all had dreams and hopes for the Paramount, but no one was able to submit a proposal with a good enough business plan," she said. "Everyone is nostalgic about this. I wish them well."

The historic building was donated to the city, and there had been hope for revitalization or redevelopment of the site.

The only two respondents to the city's RFP were disqualified last month on the basis of non-compliant proposals, mainly the lack of financial means to undertake the renos.

The lights and heat were turned off earlier this month at the Paramount, located just east of Five Corners on Yale Road east.

A group of Grade 5 students from Chilliwack started a petition (gopetition.com/petitions/save-the-paramount.html) to help save the Paramount, asking city hall to hold off on demolition until a new proposal process can be initiated, and until community fundraising efforts can get started.

A third group is also trying to save the old building, even though they admit the idea may be a little far-fetched.

Local high school student Aaron Pete and Laura Bercier say they are trying to raise the $285,000 it would take for renovations and lease costs to avert the possible demolition.

They started a Facebook page on the topic at facebook.com/pages/Save-the-Chilliwack-Paramount-Theater/348985881792651.

"Unfortunately there is a current risk for the City of Chilliwack to demolish the 61 year old Paramount," said Bercier. "Seeing its age and the smiles it has brought to young children who are now adults, and children who are growing up with this historic landmark, for these people demolishing it is not an option."

"Saving" the Paramount would also have the effect of helping the entire downtown, she said.

They reached out to Chilliwack power pop band, These Kids Wear Crowns, to play a benefit fundraising concert.

"We are also hoping that we will receive generous sponsors, and that caring individuals will be willing to donate for the cause," she said. "I understand, how far fetched our plans seem, but we truly believe that people in downtown Chilliwack want their theatre back, and will fight for it."

Pete said he's working on getting TKWC to come to Chilliwack, but it would take an estimated $6,500 to rent out Prospera Centre to bring in the pop band.

"I know this sounds impossible but with generous donors and enough fundraisers i feel this is possible," he said.

The first movie Bercier ever saw was at the Paramount.

"It was also the last place I watched a movie with my father who passed away in 2007 and I would like to see my last movie there," she said. "Our goal is to get the theatre up and running I feel it is the heart of Chilliwack and bringing it back to life will revive downtown Chilliwack which I feel like we're slowly losing."

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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