Sitting empty since the Rose Theatre was built, the city is likely to sell off the entire set of buildings known as the Heritage Theatre block.
This is the set of properties in downtown Brampton at 70-86 Main Street South.
In addition to the Heritage Theatre, this includes another vacant building, the building that houses the Downtown Brampton BIA, and the Robson Block, home to the Beaux-Arts Brampton art gallery and studios.
Since last August, the Brampton Heritage Board, a city advisory committee, has been pushing for the Heritage Theatre to be formally designated a heritage building, which would give stronger protections to the building. However, the item has been deferred at every meeting it was brought up at.
Michael Avis, president of the Brampton Historical Society, understands that “for the City to encourage possible Robson Block development from the private sector, having a building sitting ‘designated’ under Part lV of the Ontario Heritage Act may, in fact, deter possible interested investors.”
In fact, Avis isn’t opposed to some structural modifications, which may surprise those who don’t understand the sometimes arcane language of heritage planning.
“Surely with ingenuity, creativity and yes, some concessions to structural modification, the 1923 Heritage Theatre can become yet another success story.”
As the Heritage Theatre is only listed, and not designated, there are no restrictions on demolition, though that may likely provoke an outcry from Brampton residents.
When asked why it’s important to keep heritage buildings, and their value to the city, Avis says “The Brampton Historical Society would suggest that our supply of heritage resources is such that we can ill afford to lose [these] valuable pieces of Brampton history.”
A timeline for when the building may be sold and redeveloped is unknown. Beaux Arts Gallery had meant to only be in the building for two years when they originally set up shop in 2002.
“Beaux-Arts always knew that it would move locations at some point and now that time is drawing near. We do not know the potential timeline of things at this point but, we are confident that our City will do what they can to demonstrate support of our arts organization and help facilitate the successful relocation of Beaux-Arts Brampton,” says Réagan Hayward, executive director of Beaux-Arts.
While the city’s committee of council voted to proceed with the sale on April 19, the final confirmation will likely be made next Wednesday, on April 26.
In 2012, the city invited residents to think of possibilities to adaptively reuse the set of buildings, including cultural incubators or education uses. At the time the city had great success with repurposing old heritage assets for new uses, including the Alderlea renovation and the old CPR station conversion into Mount Pleasant Library.
The city had originally engaged ERA Architects to facilitate this process, as they had extensively done similar old theatre-to-new use conversions. Their proposal was to re-use the Heritage Theatre as a key anchor, and for the other buildings to be linked for minor but related uses. This option also meant that any proposal wouldn’t require TRCA approval, as it is currently in a flood plain.
Later that year, the city released a “Request for Expressions of Interest” to the private and public sectors, asking for proposals. According to the latest report, that request fell flat.