Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Capitol Theatre Is Doomed; Long Live The Armouries

Who needs an absurd mind's eye canal vision when you can have this vision instead.

It's New Year's eve. Out with the old, in with the new.

Remember this quote:
  • "The city and a bankruptcy trustee are embroiled in a protracted legal fight that has left artists and community theatre groups wondering whether the city wants the theatre to close so Caesars Windsor faces no downtown competition. Last week, Mayor Eddie Francis said the landmark might not even remain a theatre.

    "I'm concerned for the future of the Capitol in light of Mayor Francis' comments when he seemed to express the sentiment that the Capitol's days might be numbered," said Ward 3 Coun. Alan Halberstadt, who attended the rally.

    "He hasn't spoken to council as a body about that, so I don't know where he's getting that from."

In early December, Edgar (aka Eddie) informed us that that Council would bring an application to have the Bankruptcy Trustee's appeal respecting the Capitol ownership dismissed so the City would finally control the Capitol. After all, $1.8M of taxpayer dollars has to be protected.

And if the only way to salvage that money is to savage the Capitol by selling it, say for a parking lot, and having it torn down, so be it.

After my BLOG "Chuck Mady Must Sue," I got quite a reaction. I am interested to see that EllisDon might sue now too so Mady could just go along for the ride and not be the Number 1 Bad Guy.

However, right after the BLOG was posted, a loyal reader called me and asked if I heard the rumour about the University considering moving part of the campus to the Palace area downtown and being involved with the Armouries. The Palace interestingly enough is owned by Mady and he does have plans for expansion that could encompass the Armouries as I had Blogged before "SHOULD MAESTROS BE SEEN AND NOT HEARD," and "MASSIVE DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT."

Naturally, I followed up and two good sources told me that they had heard of such discussions but a third who really ought to know said:

  • "No one told me!"

I just figured he was being coy. He was not going to be accused of being a Leakor.

However, I came up with a great scheme to help me in my Mayoral campaign if I decided to run. Moreover, Chuck Mady can pay me big bucks as a fee for giving him the idea and helping him to carry it out.

I have to tell you about it right now since it does involve re-invigorating the downtown and turning it into an educational and cultural wonderland that will attract the young entrepreneurs here in droves. After all, I have to tell you about it quickly so I get the praise since we know that:

  1. --"Windsor's battered downtown is getting a much-needed vote of confidence from larger-than-life London developer Shmuel Farhi, who has been opening his wallet to scoop up properties here and hopes to make an announcement in February of his plans for the core area."
  2. --"As mayor of Canada’s unemployment capital, Francis is itching to announce early in the new year success on three “files” the city has been pursuing, each involving non-government investments with the potential to inject large numbers of new jobs into Windsor.

    He said the projects would help diversify Windsor’s economy"
  3. --The new CEO of the Undevelopment Commission starts in February and you know there will be a contest between him and Edgar to announce who brings in the first new jobs since they are both superstars. Edgar has to ry and scoop him via the Star as was done inititially with the Sutherland call centre until Sandra's role was revealed.

Now I figured that the Capitol could still go to St. Clair since they got the Salvation Army building or if money was needed, it could be sold to Mr. Farhi and he could threaten to tear it down and turn it into a parking lot.

Who cares if it is part of our past history. Heritage, shmeritage.

He got control of the Capitol Theatre in London and I thought he tore down most of it. Its facade was "saved" as the building was leased to the City of London for 20 years as offices for the Planning Dept. Why not do the same here?

  • "Restoration a Capitol idea
    The Capitol Theatre and the Bowles building have been beautifully restored

    The Capitol Theatre and Bowles building, once thought to be too derelict to restore, have made majestic comebacks on London's Dundas Street, breathing new life into a block of core buildings between Clarence and Richmond streets that badly need a new draw.

    Their comeback -- with their inviting grey limestone and large windows -- is owed in large part to London developer Shmuel Farhi and the City of London who came together with an idea that would save the buildings.

    The $4-million development will soon house the city's planning department in 2010 in its open, airy spaces.

    Farhi is excited about the results and admitted while the cost was high, it was a great investment in "giving back to the community" and "bringing more people to Dundas Street..."

    The Capitol was built in 1920 and was known as the Allen. It had a long lobby with mirrored walls that led to a large theatre. But after the years of neglect, it became a Dundas Street eyesore with a sign on its marquee that said R.I.P.

    The movie theatre was demolished to make way for parking and Farhi, after he bought the property in 2006, initially planned to raze the whole thing.

    The Bowles building was added in 1928, and was a restaurant and a jewelry store.

    In 2008, an architect determined the facade was worth saving after the large sign out front was removed to reveal the ornate stonework. City council later agreed to enter a 20-year lease with Farhi for civic offices."

If Chuck will only listen to me, he now has terrific leverage over the City. He better sue so that Edgar will beg the Feds and Province for big bucks to help him out of a big jam and arrive at a settlement with Chuck.

There would be terrific outrage if the Capitol would be lost so a mind's eye vision is needed immediately as a replacement. We need to pretend again with another vision for the revitalization of downtown. What could be better than turning the Armouries into a symphomy hall for the WSO and turning the Palace into a music school for the University! Heck, Mr. Farhi could even contribute $25,000 for a feasibility study.

With the Capitol gone so that it cannot provide any competition to the Casino or any other site, this concept would shut everyone up until the idea died after the election!

You see what I mean. I need this for my campaign before Edgar grabs it for one of his big announcement for re-election purposes

Think I am fooling. The Star reported

  • "In January, the city will take delivery of a new cultural master plan which some hope will drive the community to a new era of pride and prosperity.

    The study, the first of its kind in more than two decades, follows years of foot-dragging from decision-makers, pie-in-the-sky schemes and infighting which have strangled the city's potential for growth.

    At least that's how Mayor Eddie Francis sees it.

    "Trying to find common ground between the city's arts groups has been frustrating, to say the least," said Francis, who is banking on the master plan to turn the tide in the arts community.

    "I made a point of sitting down with many arts groups after getting elected," Francis said. "I basically begged them to come together to work in a collaborative and co-ordinated way. But I had very little success."

So if they cannot work together, then there is little opposition to what Edgar can propose. You know what artists are like anyway. Since he needs $1.8 M, he can scrap the Capitol.

Does that explain why Edgar (aka Eddie) has little interest in the Capitol.

  • "While specific details in the report won't be made public until city council reviews it, probably in January, people like the mayor are lining up with their wish lists of what it may contain.

    "I would hope," Francis said, "it provides a very clear, cogent, strategic plan with significant deliverables that at the end of the day add to the quality of life for the residents."

    In a difficult economy, a cultural master plan, said Francis, is as crucial to the lifeblood of a community as an economic development strategy.

    "We know that jobs follow people. And people will be drawn to a community where there is a variety of opportunities and amenities. Culture and the arts are significant in enriching a community and defining its sense of place."

Wow, what an election platform plank that I can "borrow" from him!

And the WSO Needs report re the Armouries spelled it out perfectly too so I can already discuss how to pretend to carry it out in great detail and with little real thought:

  • "The local market lacked a space well suited for unamplified music. Relative to comparable communities there was a lack of large and mid-size spaces for use by the University

    "Webb Management Services concluded that user demand for a new concert venue was not sufficient to justify renovation of the Windsor Armouries for one user, specifically the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. The Symphony’s programming would utilize performance space less than a quarter of the year. There was some demand from arts groups for performance space. However, this demand existed primarily for a venue with less than 1,000 seats. Additional external demand was also difficult to predict, as many arts groups cited interest in using a reopened Capitol Theatre...

    To that end, there is potential for the Armouries to be transformed into a performance venue, if steps are taken to bring on additional project partners. Key uses and users that might play a critical role in the makeover of the Windsor Armouries were identified by interviews, an examination of relevant trends across North America, and the needs of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.

    There is great potential for school districts to become engaged as partners in the project. However, interviews with staff and leadership from both school districts indicate declining enrollment, a lack of financial resources, and adequate arts facilities, leading to little interest in this project. But there remains a tremendous opportunity to create a venue that serves Essex schools and music organizations as a home for the teaching and performance of music, starting with the expansion of the Symphony’s very successful education programs.

    Similarly, the Windsor Armouries also represents a tremendous opportunity to collaborate with the University of Windsor. Initial University feedback regarding the Windsor Armouries concept suggested that facilities are too large and far from campus. However, new education and performance facilities at the Windsor Armouries could provide the University with a satellite urban campus and raise the profile of the Music Department while leveraging the University’s teaching and student resources. More recent discussions between University leadership and the Windsor Symphony suggest that prospects for this partnership might be improving...

    The other interesting feature of the chart is all of these of these markets have major universities. Yet it is only the University of Windsor that lacks a large or even mid-size hall for the performing arts. The proposed Niagara Centre for the Arts is a downtown development partnership between the City of St. Catharines and Brock University...

    The Windsor Armouries also represents a tremendous opportunity to partner with the University of Windsor. Tentative University feedback regarding the Windsor Armouries concept maintains that facilities are too large and far from campus. However, the University leadership transition might alter current initiatives and long-term plans. New facilities such as the Windsor Armouries could provide the University with a satellite urban campus and raise the profile of the Music Department while leveraging the University’s teaching and student resources. Appended to this report are examples of partnerships between Universities and professional Symphonies including the Dalhousie Arts Centre at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the University Centre at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia...

    Our greatest challenge through this study has been the status of other key facilities. The Capitol Theatre is closed and Chrysler Hall has been in a state of flux with staff and policy changes. Both of these buildings must find their way, determining what programs make sense, how and by whom they should be operated and how then they can be financially sustained. Until that happens, it is difficult to make the case to add the Windsor Armouries into the mix...

    Anecdotal information obtained from interviews indicates that many local arts organizations are unsatisfied with the management and expense of renting existing facilities. The bankruptcy of the Capitol Theatre affected several local arts groups, forcing the cancellation of shows and a loss of revenue. The Capitol’s booking policy is limiting, and requires users to have a backup venue in case facilities become unavailable...

    Local facilities are limiting to Windsor-Essex arts groups. Most importantly, none of Windsor’s largescale performance venues are appropriate for unamplified live music. There is presently a need for affordable, flexible, community oriented performing arts facilities. This conclusion is somewhat influenced by the current situation at the Capitol Theatre."

So Chuck just listen to me. You have the City right where you want them as the low bidder on the 400 Building who was royally screwed as the Audit Report points out. Sue and Edgar will settle and take the Palace building off of your hands and force the University there. They owe it to him after the Engineering Building fiasco. It will all work out perfectly. I can get a big fee and take all of the credit for the concept too in my election campaign.

I suspect that John Morris Russell, conductor of the WSO, suspected this all along. He had it all figured out in advance like a master chess player. [BLOG: April 14, 2009 "New Concert Hall Or Else"]. He is the Maestro after all.