Chilliwack city council decided to defer a decision to demolish the Paramount Theatre at Tuesday's meeting.
The staff recommendation was to accept an offer from the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO) to demolish the Paramount at no cost to the city.
CEPCO plans on demolishing the Ewert Building at 46177 Yale Rd., the property directly west of the Paramount, and said this would cause "severe damage" to the Paramount.
A large group opposed to the demolition of the Paramount attended the council meeting, and two members of the Save the Paramount Theatre working group were given 10 minutes to address council.
Jim Balakshin and Sam Waddington pointed to the city's own official community plan as a document that has numerous references to the retention of heritage buildings, particularly downtown.
The two also brought in Andrew Ward, an expert on heritage architecture from Australia who spoke of the importance of building.
"What is emerging in the picture is that the Paramount Theatre with its sign has a place in the heart of the people of Chilliwack," Ward told council. "As such it should be regarded as an iconic building in the downtown."
While all member of council including Mayor Sharon Gaetz have recognized the heritage aspects of the building, the city did issue a request for proposals that closed on Dec. 7, 2011 and received two responses, neither of which had a business plan.
At the Tuesday meeting, Coun. Stewart McLean moved the staff recommendation to demolish, arguing that he hadn't heard a "real plan" to save the building.
Coun. Sue Attrill seconded the motion, saying that it didn't make good business sense, and she didn't want to see taxpayer dollars spent on the building.
But Coun. Chuck Stam questioned the need to rush the matter and made a motion to refer the matter back to staff, after which a 60- to 90-day reprieve was given for the Save the Paramount group to come up with a business plan.
"I think that it is a wonderful building and I think it could have a new life and buy another 20 or 30 years," Stam said. "Do I hold out much hope? I'm not a betting man, but, no, I don't."
Council unanimously voted in favour of the motion to send the matter back to staff for reconsideration.
Gaetz agreed with the idea to send it back to staff but called this last minute reprieve a "hail Mary."
"Frankly we should have had this kind of interest in the beginning of the process," she said.
Gaetz did say that no matter what happens to the building, she want to see the Paramount sign saved.
See the Chilliwack Times March 8 for more on the meeting.
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