Categories: Opinion

Downtown plan leaves too many questions

We have lost the Empress Hotel, and are about to lose the Paramount Theatre. The newest concept plan from the City depicts a development that means we will lose the remaining heritage buildings at Five Corners including The Hipwell Building, all the way up to and including the Stacey Block.

No one at City Hall deserves a pat on the back for planning to demolish every single significant heritage building left on the Yale Road corridor in advance of a concrete plan that they can actually communicate to us as more than a concept drawing.

Why is Chilliwack one of the only municipalities between Hope and Whistler without a council -appointed Heritage Advisory Committee?  Just google it, I did.  Why has the Museum and Archives been relegated to a role that seems to involve salvaging artifacts from our heritage buildings before they are demolished? I would like to hear publicly from the experts at the Museum and Archives as to how they  feel about the Downtown Plan. There are so many other voices in this community that are conspicuously absent, such as the voice of the BIA. Maybe it’s because CEPCO, the BIA, the Downtown Implementation Committee, and the City ,all share board members and staff…you can google that too.

This whole Downtown Plan and all the shenanigans at the City and CEPCO reminds me a little of the HST fiasco…sometimes the “process” is equally as important as the “outcome” trying to be achieved. When people feel that they have not been consulted properly, and that their voices have not been heard, they are going to let the people in power know about it…first on principle, and then because they want answers and will find a way to get them.

Last week, I got a call from a friend of mine who happened to be driving by the Paramount  just after 6 a.m. Knowing I am passionate about the state of heritage buildings downtown, he called me, and I threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera and walked the 2 minutes up to the Paramount to see for myself. Sure enough, by 6:20 a.m., contents of the Paramount had been loaded into a large private construction trailer and off they drove, in the company of three or four other pick- up trucks. Maybe the light of pre-dawn is when CEPCO and the City do their best work, or maybe they would like demolition to proceed as quickly and quietly as possible to avoid too many curious eyes and any more questions.

I personally feel they should go back to the drawing board totally on the Downtown Plan, some will disagree with me and that’s OK. What’s not OK is a Downtown Plan built on misinformation, lack of transparency and an improper consultation process. Other communities all across Canada have successfully rebuilt their historic downtowns without ripping out the roots of the community and without alienating their citizens…just google it.

Krista Butt

Committee member, Friends of the Chilliwack Paramount

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