Opinion

Not feeling the love in downtown Chilliwack

Chilliwack’s Paramount Theatre sparked more than a few romances in its day.

But the old girl may have lost some of her allure.

As reported by The Progress last week, City Hall’s efforts to find a suitor for the aging structure produced just two interested proposals.

Granted, the Paramount doesn’t bring with her a rich dowry. Instead, the city estimates repairs to the building could cost as much as $300,000 – repairs admirers would have to pay for themselves.

Chilliwack’s relationship with the Paramount is an interesting and accidental one. Although residents have shared with her their laughter and tears over the generations, it was only last year that city taxpayers gained an actual financial stake in the affair.

As Chilliwack’s movie-going affections switched to the younger and more enticing Galaxy Cinemas at Eagle Landing, the Paramount’s owners ‘gifted’ the theatre to the City of Chilliwack.

Within days, the grande dame’s heart went cold – literally. The heating system, built when the Paramount was built, warmed its last seat.

City hall hoped to rekindle the romance by inviting interested groups and businesses to submit proposals, stipulating that eligible suitors would have to detail their intentions in a business plan and provide evidence of an ability to pay for the repairs.

More than 60 businesses and individuals reviewed the city’s request for proposals. Only two – an entertainment group and a church – were willing to take the plunge.

Whether either of the two proposals earn the city’s consent remains to be seen.

But city taxpayers should take more than a passing interest in the consummation of this affair. As the number of empty buildings in the downtown continues to grow, hopes of a revitalized downtown become more difficult to achieve.

The tepid interest in the Paramount proposal may have had something to do with the theatre’s condition, and the stringent parameters laid down by the city.

But it might also be uncertainty. For several months city politicians have hinted at the bold and innovative incentives contained in the city’s yet-to-be-released Downtown Action Plan.

Until it is released, developers will wait.

And Chilliwack’s empty storefronts will continue to line the dance floor, like aging spinsters hoping for a partner.

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