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Empress reverts to City
Take-over expected in November
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 26 août 2010
Photo Archives Les Actualités
The Empress Theatre building on Sherbrooke St. W.

The dream of restoring the old Empress Theatre building on Sherbrooke St. W. in NDG has hit another brick wall. Empress Cultural Centre Inc. is ceding title of the property back to the city of Montreal as of November this year.

The city purchased the old theatre 11 years ago, then gave ownership to the Empress Cultural Centre board with a mandate to revive the property as a community performance venue.

The Empress board, which includes members from community and arts groups, has been unsuccessful in its fundraising efforts. It’s estimated that $11 million would be needed to repair the building and transform it into a theatre and musical performance space. Board member Arnold Bennett says.

The board has already spent $100 000 on repairing the roof of the building which dates back to 1928. “But the job was botched,” Bennett says, “and the company went bankrupt so we lost that money.” In addition to a new roof, the building requires electrical and plumbing repairs. The board cannot afford it but hopes that the city will carry out the work.

In December 2008, the board applied to Quebec’s Ministry of Culture and Communications for a capital grant. The application was rejected a year later. Without support from the province, a grant application to the federal government was also refused. “If I were to point a finger,” Bennett says, “it would be at the Quebec government.

So for now, the future of the old Empress Theatre building, which later became Cinema V, is as uncertain as ever. Bennett says his main worry is “that the building will sit for too long without anything being done and become another Seville,” referring to the derelict Seville Theatre building in downtown Montreal, which is slated for redevelopment by private interests.

Bennett says the board is planning a membership campaign in the near future in order to keep alive its vision of a performing arts centre in the Empress.

[Marie Cicchini]

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