After four months and a lot of hard work by the Nelson Civic Theatre Society’s board and volunteers, the proposal for the renovation and reopening of the theatre has been submitted to the City.
Fuelled by the enthusiasm of the public — 1,269 memberships have now been purchased — society president Anne DeGrace said all involved are proud of the document they submitted.
“It is about 60 pages and it includes both the feasibility study and the business plan,” she said. “It is quite comprehensive and it looks carefully at renovations and operations. We did lots of consultations with experts in the industry, with other theatre owners and we learned a lot.”
While the group was putting together their proposal, they met inside the old Civic Theatre, gaining inspiration and perspective for the task that may lay ahead.
“It was interesting because we were surrounded by the very space that we hope to transform,” said DeGrace.
“On the one hand we could sit there as we talked about things and we could see the possibilities, and on the other hand you could see the challenges. It was good to meet there. I’m glad we were able to do that.”
The group also brought contractors, plumbers, electricians and other specialists through the space to help provide solid estimates for what the renovation costs might be for the theatre.
While the society had some idea of the renovations needed, DeGrace said the biggest surprises were around sheer amount of work.
“I think the things that came up around renovation costs were a bit unexpected,” she said. “Renovations posed a larger challenge than was maybe anticipated. That being said, it’s an old building so I wouldn’t say they were great surprises. We worked hard to find ways to find workable solutions and we did.”
During the four months the theatre society worked on its proposal, the Downtown Athletic Club continued to work on its plan for a multi-use sports facility in the theatre space.
As the months passed, members of the athletic club decided it was best to set their sights on other opportunities.
“What we have learned in the last little while is that we are essentially a bystander in this process,” said Pat Hodgson with the athletic and squash clubs. “We have no standing in the process as it is.”
While the club has expressed concerns with the way the City has dealt with the proposal process, Hodgson said the theatre society has done an excellent job garnering public support.
“It sounds like they have done an exceptional amount of work to put forward a bonafide proposal,” he said. “If they are able to put forward a viable proposal and operate a functioning theatre then we think that is a great thing. That’s going to be a plus for our community.”
The Downtown Athletic Club initially pitched their idea to city council in March which was followed by the Request for Proposal process.
Hodgson questions whether there would have been a Nelson Civic Theatre Society without their presentation. Despite attempts to have equal access to the theatre and marquis over the summer, the City clarified the theatre society was the only “qualified bidder” for the Request for Proposal.
“That was not the message we were getting from the City initially,” said Hodgson. “We were kind of being given the indication that our proposal would be given fair weight in comparison to the Civic Theatre Society’s proposal. But that doesn’t really appear to be the case.”
The Nelson Squash Club, who are part of the Downtown Athletic Club, have been without a home since September 1. According to Hodgson, that will likely continue to be the case for the time being.
“I don’t know where we stand at this point, I suspect from the indications I received from the representative of the Nelson theatre group, they’re going to be able to put forward a viable proposal and that will leave us out in the cold I would presume,” he said. “If the city were to say in the next couple months that they have a spot for us and to proceed then it would be one thing, but that’s not something we’re expecting.”
The Nelson Civic Theatre Society will be presenting their proposal at the Monday Committee of the Whole meeting at 7 p.m.