The Nelson Civic Theatre Society is continuing to work on their business plan and feasibility study for the theatre, but following the city’s decision to give them four months to complete their planning, society president Anne DeGrace says there seems to be some “misinformation” in the community.
“I felt he was misinformed about how the process actually works,” said DeGrace following comments made by local business owner Ed Olthof at a committee of the whole meeting.
Olthof said he was disappointed the city could be “so easily swayed” by what he perceived as a “special interest group and how some councillors have a predisposition to be swayed by that particular group.”
But DeGrace questions how the Theatre Society could be labeled a special interest group.
“We have more than 4,000 signatures on our survey,” she said. “My feeling about film is that it crosses all boundaries and that’s why I think a movie theatre is a really good thing for Nelson — because it is accessible to everyone.”
A motion was passed giving the society four months to conduct feasibility work and further business planning, raise initial funds, and consult with the broader community.
According to city manager Kevin Cormack, the proposal presented by the Downtown Athletic Club that would turn the theatre space into a climbing gym and squash courts was “unsolicited.”
“Prior to considering the Athletic Club’s proposal, council decided to issue a request for proposal for the Civic Theatre space for the purpose of a movie theatre only,” said Cormack.
The original deadline for the request for proposal was April 30, but Cormack said some of the
“Council and staff felt this was a reasonable request therefore the request to extent closing was approved as well as providing the opportunity for a second showing of the theatre space,” he said.
When Cindy Sherry began the process of forming the Nelson Civic Theatre Society, many supporters and now board members like DeGrace were considering the same project.
“I think for all of us in the community we thought that public enterprise would come through. They did before even though it didn’t work out,” said DeGrace. “Sherry thought surely we could do this. We hadn’t spoken at that point but we were both thinking the same thing. It’s not rocket science to put together a non-profit to run a movie theatre.”
The City has not yet accepted a proposal for the Civic Theatre space, but is giving the Theatre Society until October to work on their plans.
“The Civic Theatre Society will bring back their business plan to council by the deadline and council will then consider entering into a lease with them depending on the strength of the business plan including how successful they have been in their fundraising and whether they have been able to secure financing or grants to complete the identified leasehold improvements,” said Cormack.
During Olthof’s presentation to city council in July, he questioned the funding needed by the Theatre Society saying, “If it’s not municipal dollars, it’s federal or provincial dollars.”
As a non-profit society, the Theatre Society intends on using money generated by the movie house for the sustainability of the theatre and then any addition funds will be donated back to the community.
“The theatre is intended to be self-supporting,” said DeGrace. “We do have to get grants for renovations, anyone would have had to no body has that kind of money kicking around that they can just donate.”
DeGrace said the grants that could be potentially used by the Theatre Society are intended to support communities and community growth.
“If they don’t go to our community they will go to another community,” she said. “We want those tax payer dollars that support those grants to go to our community.”
She also clarified that not all grants are funded by taxpayer dollars.
Grants such as those created by Columbia Basin Trust are generated from the funds of the dams.
The society has been allowed by the city to hold meetings in the Civic Theatre and they are encouraging the community to support the project by purchasing memberships.
Cormack said should the City decide not to enter into a lease agreement with the Civic Theatre Society they would then consider their options.
“This could include accepting the proposal for the Athletic Club; asking them to more fully develop their business plan,” he said. “Council could go out for another more general request for proposals for the space or they might want to look at the space for other uses. It would be totally open as to next steps if council chose not to enter into an agreement with the movie theatre group.”
For more information about the Nelson Civic Theatre Society visit civictheatre.ca.