The demolition of the historic Paramount Theatre building in downtown Chilliwack earned it a spot on the Heritage Canada Foundation’s worst losses list for 2013.
The inclusion of the Paramount makes it clear that the loss has impacted more than just the Chilliwack community, said Laura Reid, a member of Friends of the Paramount Theatre.
News of the demolition decision went global with Heritage Canada Foundation’s recognition the heritage value of the Paramount building by including it on the top 10 endangered list for 2012 — as well as the worst losses for 2013.
When no proposal with enough financial backing came forward, city council voted last year to demolish the historic building.
Now Reid said she wondered if city officials had been presented last summer with a Statement of Significance on the heritage value of the Paramount, would they have accepted the gift from Landmark Cinemas, and then went ahead with demolition plans?
“The lack of a Community Heritage Commission may have also played a part in the theatre’s demise,” said Reid.
Members of the Friends of the Chilliwack Paramount group, which later became the Chilliwack Paramount Film Society, tried to respond to the city’s Request for Proposals with a proposal to run the building as a repertory-style theatre.
Instead council voted to demolish, taking Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation’s (CEPCO) up on its offer to demolish the building at no cost, in a vote of 6-1.
The city went through two RFP processes, and when neither one produced a viable proposal from a business point of view, its future was sealed. The building had to undergo asbestos removal before demolition, and was run down.
“The building was demolished and sits as a vacant lot,” reads the entry on the Heritage Canada Foundation website. “Luckily of the building’s contents went to Chilliwack Museum to be eventually put on display.”
In three decades, Canada has lost 23 per cent of its historic building stock in urban areas and 21 per cent in rural areas, according to the foundation.
“This rate of destruction is disturbing both in terms of lost heritage and increased environmental waste. The (demolitions on the worst losses list for 2013) represent only a small number of buildings and structures that have disappeared from the Canadian landscape.”