Home > About Vancouver > All News > Historic York Theatre reopens as new community arts space

Historic York Theatre reopens as new community arts space

December 5 2013

"I’m thrilled that we are adding a new community theatre, one that will support Vancouver’s diverse and thriving arts and culture scene," said Mayor Gregor Robertson

rendering of york theatre

Mayor Gregor Robertson joined the Vancouver East Cultural Centre and Henriquez Partners Architects today to celebrate the opening of the fully restored, 100-year-old historic York Theatre.

The York will run primarily as a rental venue, accessible for artists and community groups. Located on the northern part of Commercial Drive near Venables, the York will strengthen a cultural cluster that already includes The Cultch and the Havana Theatre.

About the restoration

The restored theatre includes a fully fitted 365 seat theatre, orchestra pit, new lobby and heritage ticket booth, with the project built to LEED Gold standards. The City will own the building and lease it to the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, who will operate the building as a performing arts centre and use it as a satellite facility.

The total cost to restore and rehabilitate the York was $14.8 million. The City contributed $13 million, with Canadian Heritage providing $1.8 million. 

History of the theatre

The York was originally built in 1913, and at times has operated as the Alcazar Theatre, The Palace, The Little Theatre, and the Raja Cinema. In the summer of 2008 an application by the previous owner was made to demolish the building. Following community advocacy that sought to retain the building, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre undertook a rehabilitation feasibility study with Henriquez Partners Architects. The property was subsequently purchased by Wall Financial Corporation, and in May 2011, Council approved a rezoning proposal and heritage revitalization agreement to save the York Theatre.

What officials are saying

Mayor Gregor Robertson, City of Vancouver

“I’m thrilled that we are adding a new community theatre, one that will support Vancouver’s diverse and thriving arts and culture scene. The restoration and relaunch of the York Theatre is a big boost for local artists, and it’s great to be partnering with the Cultch to run it. It took a lot of work, and dedicated support from both the community and private sector, to get us to this point. Together we’re protecting heritage, supporting the arts and bringing new energy to the neighbourhood.”

The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

“I would like to extend my congratulations to the Vancouver East Cultural Centre on their grand opening of the newly renovated York Theatre in Vancouver. This 100-year-old historical gem will undoubtedly solidify the local area as a major cultural district. Arts and culture organizations like the York Theatre not only contribute to the vitality of our communities, but also enrich the quality of life of all Canadians.”

Heather Redfern, The Cultch

“We are thrilled to be opening up the doors and inviting the community in to share and experience this beautiful historic theatre. This day would have not have come without the vision of so many—The City of Vancouver, the Department of Canadian Heritage, Wall Financial, Jim Green, Gregory Henriquez, Tom Durrie, and many others. The York is a wonderful addition to this city’s thriving arts scene, and will create an exciting and dynamic cultural hub in the neighbourhood.”

Gregory Henriquez, Henriquez Partners Architects

"It has been a privilege to work on a project that is so meaningful for our community, and I’m very proud of my team at Henriquez Partners Architects. We have restored the façade to match the original 1937 art deco exterior, renovated the theatre to again serve as a performance venue, and added a new, modern lobby, not present in Vaudeville Theatres of the turn of the last century. Our intention with the lobby design is to make the theatre feel open and accessible for everyone, while also animating the street life on Commercial Drive. The red tiles adorning the exterior (and sourced locally here in BC) frame the crowd of theatregoers visible through the large glazed walls, and serve as a metaphor (the spectators) for the real performances unfolding inside."