Nation e-Edition

$10m tag to restore Empire

$10m tag to restore Empire THE EMPIRE THEATRE. (FP)

Wed, January 16, 2013 - 12:07 AM

THE EMPIRE THEATRE is set to be restored, at a cost of BDS$10 million, by a group of business investors led by Preconco Limited.

Ordinary Barbadians will also have the opportunity to purchase shares in the initiative.

Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley said yesterday that Cabinet approved the proposal, one of three submitted, to turn the Empire into a 290-seat theatre, a craft brewery manufacturing Barbadian beer and also a visitor centre and small museum.

He said that because of limited access to funding by Government for the restoration of heritage structures, the project was opened to the private sector, with the public being given the opportunity to have a stake in the initiative as rum shop owners and to own shares in the brewery.

Lashley disclosed that none of the cost of restoration would be borne by Government, although the facility would be under a 25-year lease and the theatre, which will function separately from the brewery, would be Government-controlled through the Ministry of Culture.

He said work would begin when the approvals were granted by the Town and Country Planning Department.

“It would be extremely difficult for the Empire Theatre to be sustainable if it operated solely as a theatre, [so] the proposal is that the centre and craft brewery will function jointly to subsidize the theatre and assist in its marketing,” Lashley said.

Lashley said that it was important to put infrastructure in place to ensure cultural expression, the economic and social potential of which should be exploited through the provision of appropriate infrastructure.

It was in the interest of Government, too, to ensure that the Empire as a building of historic interest was preserved since it fell within Historic Bridgetown And Its Garrison, the minister said, and the proposals would therefore meet the new World Heritage requirements.

The minister also said that a number of historic properties had fallen into disrepair and the Cabinet recently approved the establishment of a task force to work with the Government to source funding and opportunities to restore buildings. (LK)

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Posted by Kathryn Daniel 1 year, 9 months ago
Perhaps it would be hard to make money if the Empire was solely a theatre, but if it were reborn as a centre for the performing arts, that would be a book to the creative arts industry in Barbados. Efficiently managed, it would provide a much-needed venue for all kinds of entertainment activities. At the moment, as far as I am aware, there is a dearth of places where you can hold a show, be it music, drama, dance, comedy etc. Queen's Park House (Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre) has long been out of commission; Frank Collymore Hall is somewhat pricy; various secondary school halls are far from ideal and have severe limitations on seating, parking, etc.; the gymnasium is expensive to rent; Plantation Restaurant has limited availability.... Get the picture?

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Posted by Pan Wallie 1 year, 9 months ago
A 290 seat theatre???? Is this an error?

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Posted by J. Payne 1 year, 9 months ago
I've been saying a long time that building look too chinxy. 290 seats?? A stage looks like it could take up half of the front and that's without dressing rooms.

Whatever the renovations wind up costing to re-do that building from top-to-bottom it will have to turn a profit or become a further drain on taxpayers. It certainly isn't as large as the Wildey Gym which houses 4,500 to 5,000 seats. We shall see how viable it will be if Central Bank's facilities are too "expensive".

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