Is there a Way to Save the Rio Theatre? Maybe Hollywood Has the Answer

A beloved community theatre faces threat of demolition and redevelopment, sound familiar? With the present danger to one of Vancouver’s landmarks, the Rio Theatre, it’s easy to forget that the Hollywood Theatre, a Kitsilano institution has sat empty for the last 5 years. Listed as part of Heritage Vancouver 2012 Top10 Watch List, this new proposal saves the heritage theatre, uses the resulting bonus density to allow for a 6 story building, and strengthens both West Broadway and Kitsilano. The new building will have a modern design, using its balconies to provide a respectful connection to the restored theatre, which will retain its art deco look. Care has been shown, as murals are to cover the blank walls, creating not just a physical arts hub, but a visual one as well.


The operators of the theatre, David Hawkes and Sean Mawhinney, have a long connection with the community, and the program is staying true to that by offering incentives and performance time for non-profits, and free events, in addition to the for-profit programming. Rather than trying to cover that in several pages of detail, those who are interested can read more about the business plan here.


I arrived at St. James Community Square about 10 minutes after the event started, and was puzzled to see a City TV camera crew already leaving the event. Entering the small chapel space, I was surprised to see the hall was already packed. I soon realized this was partially because the West Broadway BIA, in partnership with Olympia Pizza, Jun’s Sushi, and Cupcakes on West Broadway, was providing an array of foods to help facilitate the discussion. After putting together a plate, I toured the boards, and spoke with staff and some of the roughly 90 members of the public that attended before I left. In terms of attendance, I would say most were over the age of 60, and a fair number had connections to the arts community. The comments I heard revealed that most were really encouraged, though a small number did have some anxiety. Of that smaller group, I heard voices express that the City should purchase the building, run the theatre as a non-profit, and of course ensure there were no increases in height to the neighbourhood. The comment that stuck out the most was a person who claimed there should be more parking provided, as no one uses the bus because they are simply too busy.


Still, these opinions were in the minority. It was clear that most were happy to see this icon in the community revitalized, while adding some homes and future customers to the area as well. As these homes will be strata, not rentals, I have no doubt they will be obtainable to a few. Though, hopefully the quality here will tempt some single family home owners to downsize, freeing up space for other rental home development. After spending an hour at the event, I was overheated, full, and ready to leave, however I was distracted by a woman asking for signatures against a development. The petition was not against this project, rather it was rallying people to save the Salvation Army Temple at Gore and Hastings from a proposed Coastal Health Facility / Housing project. Still, as Hannah and the second open house of the night waited for me, I did what anyone in a rush to get from West Kits to Granville would do- I took the 99.

While this project doesn’t have a comment form, you can provide your thoughts to the Project Facilitator,

4184 Investments, Ltd. has applied to the City of Vancouver for permission to develop at this site a new 6-storey, mixed-use building with a restoration of the adjoining existing theatre building. The proposal includes the following:


  • 40 market strata dwelling units;
  • New retail units at grade with a floor space area of 411 m² (4,423 sq.ft.);
  • Building height of approximately 20.3m (66.65 ft.);
  • Total floor space area of 5840 m² (62,864 sq.ft.); and
  • Two levels of underground parking accessed from the lane with a total of 47 parking spaces.


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