A functioning theatre, a boutique hotel – these are a couple of options for the future of two historic buildings in downtown Cumberland.
At the most recent council meeting, owner Hugh Fletcher spoke about wanting to talk with the Village about the future of the ILO-ILO Theatre and the King George Hotel.
“The two properties are pretty iconic for Cumberland, and they’ve been sitting vacant for too long now,” he told council.
In his presentation, he touched on the obstacles, especially from costs such as parking requirements for the sites, as well as the need to determine what the sites can be used for.
Fletcher wanted to know if there are concessions available to make the properties viable in terms of covering the cost of renovations.
“It’s a labour of love rather than a proper money-making enterprise,” he said.
“I’m excited to see what the machinations of the heritage registry mean to the Village.”
He said he hoped to do something with the properties this year and find some key point people at the Village with whom he can work. He also outlined a number of measures such as adding sites to the newly announced Community Heritage Register that need to be clarified, saying he was interested in exploring options with the registry.
Fletcher has restored other buildings in the community and is hoping he can work out something for the two sites.
“Something has to be done to them fairly soon. They can’t sit vacant for much longer,” he said. “I would hate to have to remove them and sell them to somebody, who’s just going to put up a concrete block.”
Council members agreed the buildings have sat too long and expressed enthusiasm to see something happen with the sites.
“I’m attached to both buildings…. If I had it my way and money weren’t an object, the King George would be a boutique hotel and the ILO-ILO would be a theatre – live and film,” said Coun. Vickey Brown.
She asked Fletcher to expand on the barriers for redevelopment.
“Parking is like a black hole for pretty much everybody,” he responded. “That was the major one for the ILO.”
He said there had been no fees when he bought the building, but the price now is steep, as are costs for various studies needed to redevelop the building.
“You have to take into account what you want the theatre to be,” he said.
Fletcher asked whether a theatre is something they still want in a small community. If so, there will have to be discussion around factors like the parking requirements.
Other members of council supported ideas such as having a theatre or boutique hotel, saying they would have to negotiate on matters such as parking space numbers for the theatre.
Coun. Jesse Ketler supported working on both but did feel the theatre is more pressing.
“I feel that the more important of the two is the ILO-ILO, and we do have a very strong arts and culture vibe here in Cumberland,” she said. “I think that would just enhance it that much more.”
Mayor Leslie Baird also touched on the demand for a hotel, adding the King George had been a beautiful building originally.
“The need in the Village is huge. The hotels in Courtenay are making a lot of more off the biking community,” she said, adding council should have a decision for Fletcher about next steps at an upcoming meeting. “We can work together on this, I am sure, to find a solution.”