L’ESPACE RUNNING OUT OF TIME
According to Michael Flanigan, director of real-estate services for the City of Vancouver, municipal officials plan to act today (November 30) on a final eviction notice to Régis Painchaud, operator of the cultural venue l’Espace at 1435 Granville Street, beneath the north end of the Granville Bridge. Over the last 12 years, Painchaud has helped transform the city-owned structure, built in the 1920s and zoned as a dry-storage warehouse, into a richly decorated setting for everything from art-community parties to chamber-music performances.
Just over a year ago, Painchaud met with city officials in search of an agreement over the many improvements Painchaud had made to the structure without the usual permits. “Everything was positive in our attitude and our desire to bring the building up to code and to create a great place,” Painchaud said. “Everybody who came to l’Espace [over the years] enjoyed the charm of the place, and they felt thankful because everything there has been done with heart.”
Talks with Flanigan resulted in the hiring of two consultants to assess the renovations that l’Espace required to conform to code. The good news for Painchaud was that the city picked up the tab for the consulting work; the bad news was that Painchaud would need to pay for almost $400,000 worth of renos to make it fully legal.
“As a landlord in the city, we cannot condone occupancy of a building that doesn’t meet life-safety regulatory requirements,” Flanigan said, noting that the site is not zoned for an arts venue. Flanigan added negotiations failed when Painchaud said he would not sign a mandatory document giving the city the right to terminate contracts with tenants on sites near major municipal infrastructure (the bridge). Painchaud also declared he could not afford the necessary upgrades to the building, Flanigan said.
“Our insurance is at risk if there’s a major event,” Flanigan argued. “If a balcony that’s built without permits collapses and someone gets injured or killed, for example, it’s going to be the city that faces the liability. That’s just an unacceptable risk for the taxpayer. And because he’s not prepared to address this—and it’s a big expense—we’re left with no option, really, but to put the building back to its conformed use and get another tenant.”
An e-mail campaign to the city on behalf of the venue has been under way since last week.
> Brian Lynch
One of the founders of Vancouver’s thriving theatre community, Doris Chilcott, died of leukemia on November 19. She would have been 76 on December 29. Bill Millerd, artistic director of the Arts Club Theatre, said he became aware of Chilcott’s illness when she withdrew from Vigil, a show she was slated to star in with its author, Morris Panych, in the new year.
“Doris and people of that generation laid the groundwork for what we have today,” Millerd told the Straight. In the days when the Vancouver Playhouse routinely brought in stars from Ontario and England, Chilcott and her Vancouver acting contemporaries performed for low fees with struggling companies such as the Arts Club, City Stage, and Tamahnous. “They subsidized us,” Millerd said. “They wanted to see a theatre culture get started.”
Chilcott enjoyed a full career, acting for film, television, and radio as well as theatre. In 1998, her performance as Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days won her a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for best actress.
A memorial service will be held at Heritage Hall at 11 a.m. next Thursday (December 7).
> Colin Thomas
FEDS FIND METH MONEY
Headlines Theatre has earned a last-minute funding reprieve for its new stage project Meth, which opens tonight (November 30) at the Japanese Hall (475 Alexander Street). Until late last week the issue-oriented company had not received the $10,000 promised to the production by the federal Department of Justice, and feared the money had been axed. By the weekend, however, Headlines’ artistic and managing director, David Diamond, had gotten word from the department that the cheque was in the mail.
Meth is a work of interactive theatre examining the causes of addiction, created and performed by a cast made up of people who have experienced the grip of the drug. See www.headlinestheatre.com/ for details.
> Brian Lynch
BRINGING UP HOUSE LIGHTS ON THE DRIVE
Local artistic coordinator Jhayne Holmes has launched a campaign to raise $48,000 by next Friday (December 8), as a deposit toward the purchase of the 300-seat theatre at 639 Commercial Drive (most recently the Raja Theatre, and formerly the New York). Holmes hopes to turn the cinema into a multidisciplinary art and performance space called Heart of the World, open to hosting film festivals, cabaret events, visual art, live music, and dance. Even if she makes the deadline, however, she’ll still have to come up with the $935,000 balance. Check out www.foxtongue.com/ for the complete picture.
> Brian Lynch