Coming soon to old theatre?
Curtain could rise soon on Lyric Century apartments
May 19, 2009
The Hamilton Spectator
A much-delayed downtown development project may finally be getting off the ground.
The city has issued a building permit allowing the start of construction on a plan to turn the former Century movie house on Mary Street into an apartment building of 59 units.
City Councillor Bob Bratina -- the project is in his ward -- said the building permit has been issued and deposits paid. All that remains is for work to start.
"All the indications of the start of a project are in place except the start of the project," he said.
Ron Marini, director of downtown development in the city's planning department, said the current permit allows for the back part of the former movie and vaudeville house to be demolished. The front and side facades of the building are to be maintained.
Marini said that when the wrecking ball finally connects with the rotting building it will be an important day for the city's core.
"Let's do it. Let's get going," he said. "Every project downtown is important because the reality is downtown is going to be fixed one project at a time.
"We have to get some people living in that area who have money in their pockets," he added.
The proposal calls for the shell of the old cinema to support a new structure of five storeys and 59 apartment units. The project is backed by Brampton-based developers Zoran Cocov and Dimitar (Jimmy) Gorgiev, operating through a company called Lyric Century Apartments Inc.
In a telephone interview, Gorgiev said final details of the project were expected to be worked out on the long weekend.
"We have to decide about the price and everything else, but we expect to start work very soon," he said. "We still have a few details to work out."
The project has been on the city's books since 2001 when the current owners bought the property. It has been delayed several times for lack of financing. The project has been approved for $1.7 million in support under Hamilton's Downtown Residential Loan Program. It provides five-year interest-free loans of $20 per square foot of habitable living space. As an apartment project it could also be eligible for Hamilton's Municipal Realty Tax Incentive Grant Program. It provides 10 years of rebates on property tax increases resulting from improvements to the property.
The original project called for 97 small condos, but in 2004 the owners said they were going back to the drawing board after seeing the success of projects with larger units such as the Core Lofts in the old Bell Canada building on Bay Street.
Built in 1913 as the Lyric vaudeville house the auditorium held 2,000 people and was billed as the largest theatre in the city.
The structure was remodelled in 1940 into a movie house and renamed the Century, one of Hamilton's seven largest and grandest theatres. Others on the list included the Capitol, Palace, Temple and Tivoli.
The Century is the only one still standing. It was also known as the first cinema in the area -- some say in the country -- to offer air conditioning.
A final remodelling took place in 1967, but the advent of multi-screen venues such as the multiplex at Jackson Square, doomed the large old movie palaces.
The screen went dark for the last time in 1989.