Should the Town buy the Park Theatre?

This was first proposed in August 2014 and although the Town came close to buying it in May 2015, the deal fell through (see links below).  It was subsequently bought by someone else but since then, nothing has happened – at least not publicly.  The thought by some is that Cobourg needs something equivalent to Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre and although the Park needs extensive work, it is halfway there.  On the other hand, Victoria Hall already serves as a theatre for many events. However, a consultant has now been hired to prepare a Cultural Master Plan and it is hoped that it will help with making a decision.  A lot is riding on this Plan; when Dean Hustwick was hired in March 2016 as Director of Parks and Recreation, it was part of his mandate.

Park Theatre - just after it was most recently sold
Park Theatre – just after it was most recently sold

Work on the Cultural Master Plan has started and its scope includes identifying the Town’s role in Cobourg’s Cultural sector, assessment of opportunities for new initiatives that leverage cultural assets and the need and feasibility of municipal funding of arts and culture. Download the RFP here. Although the RFP did not explicitly say anything about the Park (or the Marie Dressler House), the CAO and Council have said that “decisions on Cultural Assets” (like these buildings) will be deferred until the completion of the Plan.  The photo of the Park theatre (at right) was taken at the time it was sold in December 2016.

All candidates were asked the question “Should the Town buy the Park Theatre?” – here are their answers:

Mayor

John Henderson (acclaimed) For the Town Council to consider purchasing the Park Theatre we would require a mandate from our citizens to spend millions of dollars over the term of Council. The new Council will need to determine if this potential purchase is viable with a Return on Investment and integrates with the Cultural Master Plan. [Abbreviated]

Deputy Mayor

Randy Curtis The current council reviewed this proposal and declined to move forward. It is my understanding that it was too expensive. As an advocate of prudent financial management I agree with this decision.
Suzanne Séguin Is it for sale? The new Council should have access to all the documents and engineering reports related to the Park Theatre and hold a public discussion before this is even on the table for possible 2020 budget deliberations.

Councillors

Nicole Beatty All capital campaigns, acquisitions, developments and/or purchases require a detailed plan that demonstrates feasibility and communicates economic sustainability in its cash flow and financial projections.  Cobourg has a rich history in community partnerships and I would explore a plan that is transparent, low risk, affordable, collaborative and above all, has a strong blueprint that has economic and cultural benefits for the town and its people.
Aaron Burchat I would not support the town purchasing the Park Theatre. The cost is too high currently, and the funds should be directed into other important items (like maintaining current infrastructure) prior to making a purchase like this.
I would support the town assisting a future owner of the Park Theatre with regards to keeping the heritage of the building intact. [Abbreviated]
Adam Bureau Ideally the Park Theatre renovated and reopened such as the Capital Theatre in Port Hope, would be a great asset to Cobourg and would in turn create more business for the local restaurants and bars. If there was a way the town could purchase and reopen it, I would be for it.
Emily Chorley No, unless it could be shown that municipal development of the theatre would stimulate further vitalization in downtown Cobourg. Instead, Council should prioritize meeting people’s needs by considering services such as expanded sidewalk snow-clearing or support to those facing homelessness.
Brian Darling No.
Karl Vom Dorff Possibly, at the right price. Cobourg has enough capital expenditure projects in the next two decades though. Unfortunately for the building and its past, I believe the free market has spoken
Travis Hoover  No. (Is it even for sale?  There is a Sold sign on the building)
Miriam Mutton First, I would like to learn more about the revenue generating mandate that appears to be used to determine priorities at Town Hall. And, on the topic of municipal cultural planning and community quality of life the theatre project deserves continuing consideration.  In this light, yes, the Town should be a partner in the purchase and restoration of the Park Theatre. For operations, a County wide joint venture related to cultural resources may be most beneficial.
Johnny Percolides It would make more sense to build a brand new facility in the downtown area that would be better equipped with all of today’s modern needs, accessible for everyone. You can have offsite parking up town and a shuttle bus that brings you downtown every 10 minutes.  It would be very easy to get a couple of large corporate sponsors to assist financially and give them the naming and advertising rights if that was needed. [Abbreviated]

Note: Candidates listed in last name alphabetical order. Answers that were longer than about 40 words have been abbreviated (the limit was an average of 40 words per response).

The next question to be answered is: Open Q & A session – Should there be one at Council meetings?

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Celeste

I think after the elections there should be a town council meeting to determine what, if anything, should be done with the Park. Someone in Toronto brought it now that person should do whatever it was that they had planned to do with it or just admit that they don’t know what they want to do with it.

perplexed

WELL without parking the likely hood of anything sizable happening at the Park is Slim to Non
I asked a couple of our wanna be new council and 2 of the existing council how it came to be that the
parking lot south of King st was sold off at discount Prices , with no real assurance the land will come back to the town should a Underground parking lot not be developable due to ground water conditions prevalent in the area . NO one seems to know or wants to talk other than it was a closed door deal with no public circulation or input. Any Ideas ?

GailR

I think this was the wrong question concerning the Park Theatre which, to remind all the ‘tear it downers’, is a building of special architectural interest in our downtown Heritage District. The question should have been ‘what could be done with the Park Theatre which would keep it as a performance space in the downtown?’ There are options which will hopefully come to light as the Cultural Masterplan evolves.

gerinator

I like your question. SO have the current owners reached out to anyone (none have been reported) to assist them in defining ‘what could be done with the Park Theatre which would keep it as a performance space in the downtown?” If they have you can bet your boots that they will be looking for a handout. and NO the CMP should not evolve with the Park in its sights. This sentiment would require a 2019 budget line of some thousands of taxpayer money, inflating the budget overall with a knockon effect of artificially raising taxes.

Irene

Personally I think the town should buy back “The Jail” It is very interesting and advertised on the 401 as an attraction??,

Rusty Brown

I don’t think the town should sink taxpayers’ money into the Park. We all generally watch our movies on huge screens in comfort and ease at home these days anyway.
My only attachment to the Park is a nostalgic one: I remember watching the progress in the excavation and subsequent construction of the place while walking home from Sunday School at St. Peter’s Anglican Church every Sunday morning. That was some years back.

gerinator

Totally agreed. I’m dismayed by the clear fact (based on the responses above) that there remains a longing for a cash & tax payer funded sink hole of a building. Stop it. If the current owners pay their taxes, adhere to codes but do nothing with the Park then that is great; the risk/liability/costs remains with them. Any discussion of revenue generation, tourism and / or heritage, as it relates to the Park, is pure myth.

Sandpiper

The owners were screwed when the town sold the only and obvious parking lot off by the post office Makes the building obsolete
For all most any purpose short of a adult life style apartment or condo building where
Walking is the mod of transport.
Is there a Market for that ????

Ken

Why not tear it down and build condos……..just like in Toronto. If it were tall enough, you’d have a view of the lake!

Bob Robertson

Park Theatre – too old, not historic, dilapidated. As it stands, no room for dressing rooms for actors in stage shows, no need for another small movie theatre. Site might suit a small condo or retail complex or offices. So – the town (us as taxpayers) should not buy it.

Mark

It would be probably cheaper to build a new theatre than to renovate the Park
They could FV Pharm to foot the bill and call it “The House of Pot ” lol

Rae Waring

If we are ever able to afford a theatre/cultural centre the property across from the post office (the old Lakeshore Electric) has space and nearby parking. The building is currently an eyesore and should be acquired ,torn down and kept for paid public parking until we find either money for a theatre or can sell it for a profit.

Frenchy
Art

Surely this area , WEST NORTHUMBERLAND, has a very fine venue in the Capital Theatre for cultural events so let’s put that to bed! If we, Cobourg residents, want to organize smaller scale cultural events, then we do have several real good venues , outside the normal commercial venues, to put on such events, even very large such events. I have, personally, organized 9 such events in the past ten years, in a co-operation with the Cobourg Loins and the Columbus Community Centre (K of C) .
A far more general public need is the East Pier due to it’s upcoming urgent need for major renovation , along with many others. My hats off to those prospective councillors who have said “NO” !

Melissa

We have Victoria Hall, the Firehall theatre and The Loft, the Best Western, and Trinity United Church already available for cultural events. I am not sure we need another venue.

cornbread

Without major corporate backers, the Park would be a big money pit for all Cobourg taxpayers. For the benefit of the few who need a culture boost in our small town

Kyle

Agree, Capital Theatre would never exist without Camico..