Protests over Pantages development continue, with another war of words erupting

Protests over Pantages development continue, with another war of words erupting
By Jessica Werb, September 8, 2011, Georgia Straight

Opposition to Sequel 138, the proposed on the former Pantages Theatre site, is showing no signs of abating.

A protest is being held this morning (September 8) outside the Sequel 138 office and presentation centre at International Village mall at Pender and Abbott, organized by the Stop Pantages Condos Coalition. The organizers are pitching their protest as a press conference at which potential condo buyers will explain why they refuse to invest in the development, and call for a boycott of Sequel 138. According to a news release, over 40 organizations and 1,200 DTES residents have signed a DTES Community Resolution opposing condos at the old Pantages site. The resolution calls for the city to halt the development permit applications, buy the Pantages land at its assess value, and designate it for 100 percent resident-controlled social housing.

In response, Sequel 138 developer Mark Williams put out one of his characteristically tongue-in-cheek news releases, stating: “We expect up to 400 visitors tomorrow at our Tinseltown, International Village Mall office. These good people are interested in our new project on the site of the old Pantages Theatre. We welcome them, one and all.”

Referring to a blog posting titled “Picket Pantages Party” at the DTES Not for Developersblog, he added: “The idea of a ‘picket party’ trivializes the urgent need for mixed and affordable housing in the DTES. We are willing to invest private capital to help solve a public problem. There will be zero displacement. Not one person lives onsite now. Only rats. Even so, we welcome our visitors. If permitted, we will serve milk and cookies to all 400. We will also provide informational pamphlets, and invite people to add their names to the housing and art space lists.”

In October 2009, Williams, with the support of the Pantages Theatre Arts Society, sought a bonus density transfer to fund the theatre’s restoration, but when the city placed a moratorium on such transfers, he hammered out a deal to have the city purchase the theatre outright. That deal collapsed when the city requested a feasibility study, causing more delays during which time the theatre deteriorated beyond repair. Williams subsequently placed the property on the market with a price tag of $8.2 million, and in 2010, the city again declined to buy it. The city’s 2010 assessed land value for the property—which includes the Pantages and four adjacent buildings—was $3.7 million.

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