The York Theatre rehabilitation is the result of a decades long struggle to save the historic community theatre from demolition.
The building opened in 1913 as the Alcazar Theatre and changed identities numerous times over its 100-year history, hosting an array of events including live theatre, punk rock concerts and Bollywood movie screenings. In 2007, the theatre was slated for redevelopment as a townhouse complex; however, a feasibility study conducted by Henriquez Partners in collaboration with Jim Green & Associates, demonstrated the economic viability of reinvesting in the theatre while maintaining historical character-defining elements and the overall scale. The City of Vancouver subsequently added financial backing, which lifted the project off the ground.
The revitalization project involved fully restoring the entry, signage and marquee to match the original 1940 art deco façade. The renovation enabled the theatre to function once again as a performance venue, and added a lobby to accommodate the flow of people within a modern performance setting. The project was constructed to exceed the equivalent of a LEED-Silver rating.
The new performance space now features 365 seats, a traditional proscenium arch, a balcony and orchestra pit. While touring the renovated facility, Christopher Gaze – Artistic Director of Bard on the Beach – remarked: “the acoustics are excellent.” The expanse of glass featured in the new lobby design makes the theatre open and accessible for the community, animating the street life on Commercial Drive. The lobby exterior – adorned with red tile sourced from a local BC company – frames the throng of theatregoers inside the space, the audience metaphorically becoming actors in a piece of urban theatre.
The restored theatre is operated by the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (CULTCH) and will enhance the community’s identity as a cultural hub. On the eve of the theatre’s reopening, The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, stated “this 100-year-old historical gem will undoubtedly solidify the local area as a major cultural district. Arts and culture organizations like the York Theatre not only contribute to the vitality of our communities, but also enrich the quality of life of all Canadians.”