Secrets of the Pantages

Pantages Theatre tour On Monday, January 23rd, 2006 – a grey, drizzly day like most that month – I had the rare delight of previewing what should soon be a major part of the Downtown Eastside’s burgeoning renaissance. I joined a group of community and heritage supporters for a special tour inside the Pantages Theatre at 150 East Hastings Street. Click here to view the photos Never heard of the Pantages? No wonder. It’s been empty and derelict for years now, and before that, it was an Asian movie house – its former glories as a live entertainment venue long forgotten in the mists of time. But now, miraculously, those glory days are set to return! The Pantages is due to be restored to its original beauty, inside and out, due to the tireless efforts of some remarkable people who form the Pantages Theatre Arts Society (PTAS). And it’s not just the theatre – there will be market and social housing, art galleries – a wholly integrated development. The contrast between the sad current state of the area, and what is to come in only a couple of years, is incredible and thrilling to comprehend. The place is about to blossom – within two years there will be 21 art galleries in this corridor, Woodwards will be underway; much more is in the works. The area will be transforming from one that frightens people to one that attracts visitors from all over the city. The current neighbours have been carefully considered as well – this is no cookie-cutter, clear-out-the-locals gentrification project. The PTAS has consulted extensively with local community, social service and arts groups, including the Chinese community. The needs of all have been considered at every step. The thoroughness, inclusiveness, and vision with which this project has been planned simply blows me away. Stand on that sidewalk, look around you, and imagine the street transformed, with art, theatre, social services, a vibrant mix of young and old, rich and poor – a real neighbourhood and a magnet for culture and creativity. Standing there that grey Monday afternoon, I could see it clear as day. And it was thrilling.

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