Empress update

Are you wondering what’s happening with the old Cinema V building in Montreal’s NDG neighbourhood?

So am I.

Despite media reports to the contrary, the fate of the old Cinema V building is still uncertain.

Months back the Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough said a decision on the building’s future would only come after an evaluation committee (jury) reviewing redevelopment proposals for the building tabled its report in June.

On June 26 the committee submitted its report to borough officials. Borough councillors will be taking time to review the report and no decision’s been made yet. The councillors are not even promising to approve any redevelopment proposal. They may take or leave the committee’s recommendations.

But if you listened to CBC Radio or read this story in the Montreal Gazette you might have thought a return of indie cinema to NDG is a definite thing, since the evaluation committee favoured the Cinema N.D.G. proposal over all others.

These media reports upset people who worked on the only other proposal the committee considered, one from the Empress Cultural Centre.

Here’s a recent statement from the Empress Cultural Centre explaining their stance:

Dear Empress Supporter.
Re: Results of the Selection Committee charged with evaluation proposals to redevelop the Empress Theatre building at 5560 Sherbrooke Street West

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Empress Cultural Centre, we would like to offer our sincerest apologies for the delay in getting this update to you. We hope that you understand that with the news that the jury charged with evaluating the proposals submitted to the CDN/NDG Borough has not recommended our proposal, there is a lot to consider.

We had wanted to have more information before writing this update but in the end we felt it more important to inform you now so as to clarify any misunderstandings regarding the process. Most of you have probably heard the news that the Cote des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grace Borough Council has received a report from the jury charged with studying the proposals to redevelop the former Empress Theatre. This report, contrary to stories in some of the local media, did not decide the fate of the Empress Theatre building, it simply presented the jury’s recommendations to the five councilors of the Borough who must now vote on how to proceed.

In its report the jury recommended that the city choose the project put forward by the Cinema NDG group. This project includes a 4-room multiplex cinema and an artisanal brasserie/restaurant. We understand that there will be other commercial use(s) in this project but at this time the complete Cinema NDG project has not yet been made public.

Given our understanding that the evaluation committee report is a public document we thought it important to include their recommendations here (translated from French):

“Selection committee’s recommendations to management

The committee recognizes that uncertainties about the selected project’s completion perist because of the many funding hypothese underlying the financial plan. We are also aware of the difficulties for the proposing group to find funding without the status of the building being established.

For these reasons, the committee recommends that the borough directors select the NDG Cinema project, that meets the expectations of the sector and the district.
However, the committee submits the following reservations:

  • The applicant must confirm the financial aspects of the projet, notably the government subsidies;
  • The proposing group shall confirm the financial information regarding the costs of renovating the building and the costs of its project;
  • The proposing group must revise its schedule to make it more realistic

The Committee would like to see, as far as possible, the proposing group forge closer links with local organisations and attempt to integrate them in certain aspects of the project.

Finally, the committee recommends to the district to set a maximum time limit for confirmation of the above mentioned items.”

Upon receiving the report, Mayor Applebaum said that the dossier was now in the hands of the elected officials who would evaluate the recommendations of the committee and make a decision regarding the future of the building. It is our understanding that this decision could come as early as August 13th, the date of the next Borough council meeting.

According to the rules of the contest the city is not under any obligation to accept the recommendations of the committee.

The Board of the Empress Cultural Centre is currently evaluating the situation so that it may take an appropriate course of action.

We hope to follow up with more information in early August.

Should you have any questions or comments regarding this situation please do not hesitate to contact Jason Hughes or Paul Scriver 

Thank you,
Jason Hughes and Paul Scriver

our website: http://www.empresscentre.com
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EmpressCentre?ref=hl

The next borough council meeting happens on Aug. 13. Will this finally get resolved? I can’t help but wonder if this building carries some sort of curse.

One thought on “Empress update

  1. I’ve been closely following the fate of the Empress for over a decade now. Sadly, I fear its fate will be demolition, or at best, conversion into a condo complex. There was actually a suggestion by one of the city counselors that only the facade should be saved while the rest of the building demolished.

    Look at what happened to the Seville, the York or countless other beautiful theaters in Montreal. Talk of preservation and reopening, but in the end….well…..demolition.

    I suspect we’ll have a better idea of its fate this fall, but it’s basically a wait and see situation.

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