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Posted: March 23, 2012

Armond Theatre restoration urged

There has been a void on Cranbrook’s 10th Avenue since 1999.

That was the year the Armond Theatre closed – its two screens replaced with the multi-plex Columbia Theatre in Tamarack Mall.

Since then, the theatre has sat empty – waiting for new life – needing new life.

Some community members dreamed of restoring it to serve as a community youth art centre, notably the late Rod Osiowy, along with the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club.

On March 19, Rod O’s vision of the Armond was restored when a group appeared before City of Cranbrook council suggesting the theatre once again be considered as a location for a youth art centre.

“The perpetual spirit in Spirit Square, that’s how we envision the Armond Theatre,” said Jenny Humphrey, who appeared before council along with Colleen Osiowy and Mount Baker Secondary School Leadership student Alysha Seriani.

“It’s a building of significance,” she said of the Sharp, Thompson, Berwick and Pratt architectural firm-designed building, which rose to prominence in downtown Cranbrook in the 1950s. The Vancouver-based firm also designed Mount Baker Secondary School, as well as, Humphrey noted, Quebec City’s Chateau Frontenac.

“It’s a cement box – but there you are,” she shrugged, before noting the building’s design isn’t its charm.

“It’s rather like the Bluebird Inn – a wonderful log building” that many Cranbrook residents hold dear memories of, Humphrey said, asking council to consider its restoration for use as a youth art centre.

Such an addition to the city and to downtown fits into the city’s business plan and “all four pillars of the sustainability plan. It could be a civic gathering place” the city could realize at less of a cost than a new building.

“It could be used for many things,” she said. First and foremost, however, “this would become the home for the youth art centre.” It could also be a “one-stop shop” for Cranbrook culture and information distribution, with possibilities for revenue generation.

And as the building’s roof needs to be replaced, Humphrey said the Youth Art Centre Society envisions a “piazza rooftop. A leading edge lighthouse design.”

“It would be a welcoming place where young people could practice arts,” Osiowy said, adding it would allow for more programming and exhibition space. “Having such a facility in our city would provide a cultural asset.”

Seriani said youth in the city would embrace such a centre, and need one.

“I feel, as a young person in Cranbrook, that youth are considered students before citizens here. It would be a place to go after school. A really great meeting place for young people.”

Council was favourable to the idea and directed chief administrative officer Will Pearce to produce a report outlining how the city may be able to liaise with the group concerning the potential to obtain the building, which is currently for sale.

“Ownership of the building presents a significant challenge,” said Coun. Bob Whetham, urging the delegation to be “creative” moving forward and stressing again that “many challenges” await.

“I am quite confident, if we can acquire the building” that renovations would be achievable, Humphrey said, adding they realize that the roof is “in danger of collapse.”

While supportive of the idea, and to look into it, council members also cautioned the group about the city’s fiscal realities.

Coun. Denise Pallesen said the city had already completed its 2012 budget process. “I am not sure we have any more funds to help out. And I’m not sure citizens at large have an appetite for this expenditure,” she said, adding she supports the idea.

“It’s great to have some young leaders in the community step up,” began Coun. Diana J Scott, “but it’s the money issue. How can we fund it? Philosophically, I think it’s a good idea.”

“I do think it is a very exciting proposal,” said Mayor Wayne Stetski.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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