Proper conversations on the future of the city-owned Garry Theatre are about to begin.
The City of Selkirk bought the iconic Manitoba Avenue East theatre last summer, moving quickly before it ever went on the market. And now a Request For Proposals has gone out for a consultant to prepare a business plan and engage the public in discussions about what they want to see happen in the space.
“The Garry Theatre is a historic venue in the City of Selkirk, and when it became apparent that it would be going up for sale we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose out on an opportunity,” CAO Duane Nicol said.
“Our vision is that the theatre will operate as a community-led, non-profit organization. It’s exciting to think of all the possibilities for the space and it’s exciting to hear from Selkirk citizens about their ideas for the Garry.”
Not all good things come to an end
When the city announced last August that it had purchased the Garry, which first opened as a movie theatre in 1948, there was an absolute buzz amongst the community. It was an anticipation of what could become of a landmark building that holds a special place in the hearts of so many.
Mayor Larry Johannson said at the time even though most people knew the theatre’s end was near, it’s still sad to lose something that all long-time residents have fond memories of.
“Those of us that have been here most or all of our lives have a history with the Garry Theatre. We went there as kids with our parents and grandparents, then as teenagers and then we took our own kids, so it’s that hometown jewel that we all feel we own a piece of,” Johannson said.
“That’s what’s so exciting about the city purchasing the building, now we all really do own a piece of it and we can have a say in its future. We can all take part in building back this bit of history we all shared and make memories for our kids and grandkids. I think it’s fantastic.”
The public will play a crucial role in its future
Ellie Longbottom, the city’s Culture Coordinator, said the business plan will identify key stakeholders, community members and organizations that will be involved as well as activities that the building can support.
The public will play a crucial role in the future of the Garry, Longbottom said, and the plan will include several ways for communication to occur.
“We know there are many user groups that have a keen interest in what the theatre’s next stage in life will be and the city is equally keen to hear from them,” Longbottom said.
“Through focus groups, meeting with user groups, open houses and the city’s CitizenVoice online public engagement panel, and other means, we’ll connect with people to ensure input comes from a wide range of interested parties. People are excited about the future of this historic space and the city wants to hear from all of them.”
Nicol said he has faith in the people of Selkirk to seize the moment for the Garry Theatre – saying there are countless examples of citizens galvanizing to create greatness in their hometowns. In Selkirk, Holiday Alley is a prime example of the spirit of volunteerism and the efforts of friends and neighbours to make a little magic.
“When you have people with the right social bonds within a community you get groups coming together and creating wonderful things,” Nicol said.
“When you see something in other communities and you think ‘wow, that’s great, I wish we had that’, if you look behind it, most often it was created by a group of people getting together, volunteering, donating, and working really hard. That’s Holiday Alley’s story and I believe it will be the Garry Theatre’s story as well.”
Looking for plans for near, and long term.
Shirley Muir, co-founder of Holiday Alley, sees the city’s purchase of the Garry Theatre as a fantastic opportunity that the community can’t afford to waste.
“It’s time for the community to think deeply about what’s next. How can this old movie theater be used? How can it be restored? How much sweat equity and fundraising will it take to get it to its glory days and beyond,” Muir said.
“The City of Selkirk is asking us ‘what’s next’ and this is our opportunity to play a part in the theatre’s future.”
Nicol said that the building is old and as a result significant investments will need to be made in the future, but the goal of the business plan is to develop a business model that takes a longer -term look at the potential for the theatre.
“In addition to outlining a financially viable model for getting the theatre back up and running in the near-term, the plan will also need to look at the long-term potential of the site. What could be done, when, and how. If we think about the ideal future for the theatre, what are the series of steps we need to take to get there. The mission here is to dream big, start small, and keep moving forward,” he said.
Selkirk’s Strategic Plan, Priority 1, is for Selkirk to be a vibrant, safe and healthy community and to achieve that it calls for the city to provide the best possible recreation opportunities for residents, to revitalize downtown and to engage the entire community in shaping Selkirk’s future.
The Plan also calls for the city to capitalize on its tourism potential, which a vibrant Garry Theatre surely would, while at the same time revitalizing Selkirk’s image.
The detailed business plan for the Garry Theatre should analyze opportunities, examine financial feasibility and give clear, decisive directions for the management of the theatre. To learn more head click here.