Cinema V building to become new cultural centre: If you build it…

If you build it…

Empress Cultural Centre: New arts hub
Photo: Marianne McEwen

After years of struggle, it looks like NDG will finally see a cultural centre in the former Cinema V building on Sherbrooke St.

Last week, the Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council gave the $6.5-million multipurpose cultural centre project the long-awaited green light. Now the project’s partners – the Empress Cultural Centre, Black Theatre Workshop and the McGill Conservatory Community Program – can seek government funding for the performing and visual arts space. Plans include a 300-seat theatre; black box-style rehearsal and creation space with seating for over 100; a 50-seat cabaret-type hall; music, dance and theatre studios; and art gallery and administration space.

McGill is responsible for construction and Black Theatre Workshop will soon apply to Quebec’s Ministry of Culture and Communications. "I’m sure the Quebec government will realize it’s an important project," says Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor Michael Applebaum. "It’s a good, well-thought-out business plan."

For years, Applebaum and board members from the Empress Cultural Centre, the non-profit group responsible for reviving the city-owned building, appeared at loggerheads. In late 2006 the building was nearly auctioned off for unpaid property taxes and the project was in crisis.

"It came to a point when the City of Montreal and the borough said we will sell the building or we will take over the building," says Applebaum, pointing out the city’s total contribution to the project is $1.6-million. About a year and a half ago, a work force made up of the borough, the City of Montreal’s cultural department and Empress board members began working together to pilot the project.

Empress Cultural Centre board member Peter McAuslan did not return Hour’s phone calls, but had this to say in a recent press release: "The positive impact that people of goodwill can have when they work together on a project for the good of the community has been proven again by the case of the Empress project."

The centre’s board of directors will be modified to include representatives from the borough, the Empress Cultural Centre, McGill University, Black Theatre Workshop and "possibly someone from the community," Applebaum says.

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