Friends of the Chilliwack Paramount are feeling decidedly optimistic.
About 90 people showed up at the old arts centre Monday night to kick around ideas and offer input about saving the old Paramount Theatre building.
“We are optimistic,” said one of the organizers, Sam Waddington, after the meeting.
“There’s been some great interest expressed from all sectors of the community, and we’re gaining momentum.
“Many of the people who came out to the meeting asked us what they could do to help.”
Seniors, business owners, youth and other interested residents got an update on what the group has been up to since the demolition of the Paramount was delayed by three months after a vote by city council. Read more about the reprieve by council here.
Offers have poured in to assess the building, donate electrical expertise, or create artistic renderings, among other services, since the group came together to stop demolition of the downtown landmark.
“The Paramount touches a heartstring for many in Chilliwack,” he said. “With that kind of community support behind us, we’re going to channel that into our vision and go forward with consolidated plans.”
They have come to understand the effort to save it cannot be accomplished with raw emotion alone. They’ll need about $300,000 just to open the doors, not to mention ongoing operating funds for whatever entity is created.
A structural engineer is being sought, along with efforts to get more information about the extent of underground contamination next door from the Ewert building.
“We need to go through the motions and come up with a workable business model,” he said. One of the main ideas is to establish some type of theatre facility, possibly to show art films.
Ultimately it’s going to come down to financial partnerships, said Waddington. A steering group of five has been working on it.
They’ll be actively seeking sponsorships, and advocates at different levels, and considering a not-for-profit model, possibly run by volunteers.
“We don’t view this as a short-term thing,” he said.
They also don’t envision a scenario whereby only the art deco façade is saved from the old building.
“To preserve it would be kind of self-defeating if it was only the shell of the sign we could save. It has to be a viable business that will fill the building.”
Follow their progress on the new website, friendsofthechilliwackparamount.com, or on Facebook at Friends of the Chilliwack Paramount.