The Empress Theatre, a fixture on Sherbrooke Street West and Old Orchard Avenue in NDG for the past 93 years, is facing imminent demolition so that commercial and community space, as well as much awaited affordable housing, could be constructed on that site.
Opened in 1927, the Empress Theatre was known for its neo-Egyptian exterior design, and served as a vaudeville and burlesque venue, as well as a dinner theatre and first-run movie theatre. During the 1970s and 80s, it was best known as the popular Cinema V repertory movie theatre; however, a fire in 1992 forced the theatre to close down. And despite being acquired by the City of Montreal in 1999, the site of the former Empress Theatre remained abandoned and became a neglected eyesore in the neighborhood. These days, the building has gone through an advanced stage of decay, with water infiltration, decrepit concrete floors, and a roof that is in a state of near collapse.
According to a report by CTV News Montreal, which obtained a copy of the overview of plans for the theatre by the SHDM, Montreal’s public housing agency, the building would undergo a “partial or complete demolition” so that it can go ahead with the development of the site. It calls for commercial space for such enterprises as art galleries on the ground floor, with community space and affordable housing for artists earmarked for the remainder of the new structure. There is also the possibility that the Egyptian-style façade can be preserved and integrated into the design of the new structure.
CTV News Montreal added that the project is still in its early stages, and the new building’s shape, style and design have yet to be decided. Further studies on the project are forthcoming before a final decision will be reached on its design. As well, public consultations are slated to take place in April, so that the proposed project will accommodate the needs of the population of the area.