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Renovation of Penmar begins this week

Jennifer Vincent, Pen Mar Community Arts Society board member, announced at a press conference Tuesday a new sponsor, general manager and that construction begins this week at the Valley First Community Arts Centre. - Kristi Patton/Western News
Jennifer Vincent, Pen Mar Community Arts Society board member, announced at a press conference Tuesday a new sponsor, general manager and that construction begins this week at the Valley First Community Arts Centre.
— image credit: Kristi Patton/Western News

A new manager is in place, another major sponsor has been added and for their opening act, the Valley First Community Arts Centre is beginning construction this week on the first phase of redeveloping the old Penmar Cinema Centre.

For months, the Penmar Community Arts Society board has been working closely with theatre designers, marketing and fundraising committees.

“These teams are committed to bringing to life a facility that answers the current needs of the arts community but also leaves room for future development and expansion,” said Jennifer Vincent, board member of the Penmar Community Arts Society.

“The Valley First Community Arts Centre is intended to be a catalyst to showcase and grow local talent, a venue that attracts world-class travelling entertainment and a node that supports outreach arts programming in our regional communities throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.”

Phase one, which has two parts to it, is budgeted at around $500,000.

Construction begins on the first part on June 12 and will be focused on the lobby and the two smaller theatres. A target completion date has been set to open the two small auditoriums mid-October.

The second half of phase one includes renovations to the main theatre and expansion into the existing parking lot where a green room will be constructed. The expansion will provide a space for performers to prepare, washrooms and for storage.

The second phase also includes overhauling of the exterior facade with glass and glulam and is estimated to be completed in February 2015 for the grand opening of the entire building.

“The local and touring live acts, the film festivals and lecture series that are going to be housed here are building on a long history of entertainment in renovating this building,” said Vincent.

“We are excited for this addition to the downtown core.”

At a press conference held on Tuesday, Vincent announced the hiring of general manager Iain MacIntyre and Meiklejohn Architects coming on board as the naming sponsor of one of the theatres.

In February, Valley First signed on as the title sponsor, lending its name and significant support.

Vincent said it was important to the board to hire someone as general manager that has a unique set of skills. Vincent added they needed someone with fiscal responsibility, connect to the community, an experienced leader and a savvy problem solver.

“Iain is a long-time Penticton resident and brings with him experience in finance, marketing and event management that will be invaluable to running the centre,” she said.

The need for a facility like the community arts centre is apparent to Penticton Mayor Garry Litke. Just last week the B.C. Provincial Performing Arts Festival utilized a number of facilities around the city including church halls.

He added the Shatford Centre has shown arts and culture is “blossoming” in the city.

“The Shatford Centre brought the arts community together in a way that has never happened before in Penticton.

“I see the same thing happening here with the community arts centre,” said Litke, speaking with the Western News following the press conference.

“I see the pent up demand for a performing venue that will just attract people and give them the performance space they want and need so badly.

“It will bring the entire arts and culture community together and I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time in the audience here.”

Complimenting the centre’s business plan to phase in redevelopment as fundraising and need comes along, Litke said he expects arts and cultural tourism in the city will grow right along with the centre.

“There is a lot of research that shows aging baby boomers that used to like adventure tourism are not looking for zip lines and stuff anymore,” he said.

“They are more interested in art galleries, restaurants, plays and cultural activities. The demand for live entertainment is coming back.”

Litke added he was recently in a community half the size of Penticton that has a similar old theatre converted to an art space that has plays sold out six days a week.

Plans for further redevelopment of the former Pen Mar Cinema Centre will be dependent on the funding and operational requirements of the society.

Mark Millissen, general manager of Wildstone Construction and Engineering, said once those requirements are met the second phase would increase seating capacity to more than 500 people and would likely include a mezzanine, new washrooms and a dark room.

At full build-out the Valley First Community Arts Centre would expand into the existing parking lot. Society board members said parking would not be an issue for events as there is 250 parking lot stalls in a one block radius to the arts centre.

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