Paramount Theatre demolition plan shocks Remedy Cafe owner

It was once the largest movie theatre on the prairies, but credits are set to roll on Jasper Avenue's Paramount Theatre with plans to demolish it to make way for a new residential tower.
The Paramount Theatre, opened in 1952, is set to be demolished to make way for a residential tower downtown. (CBC)

It was once the largest movie theatre on the prairies, but credits are set to roll on Jasper Avenue's Paramount Theatre with plans to demolish it to make way for a new residential tower.

The project would also impact neighbouring retail shops downtown, including the site of the Remedy Cafe on 103rd Street.

Built by Famous Players and opened in 1951, the Paramount showed top movies for more than 50 years. In 2003, it was sold with plans to turn it into a venue for live shows and special events.

Three years later, the building was bought by City Centre Church as a house of worship.

A rendering of the residential tower that ProCura plans to build in the location of the Paramount Theatre. (ProCura)

Pastor Kevin Fricker says it is now time for the church to move on, as the need for more parking and security means the space is no longer what the congregation is looking for.

He says the building is also aging another reason to move.

"It's been a lot of fun. a lot of really good days here," Fricker said. “It probably does need some love and care."

ProCura, the Calgary-based company that owns the site, says it plans to demolish the theatre to make way for a residential tower, that stretched most of the block.

Changing face of downtown

 Senior managing partner Sherry Schluessel says the company tried to avoid demolishing the building.

“We really tried. The lease sign has become a part of the building. So, what we really look at is the highest and best use,” she said. “It doesn't just mean that ‘geez, we want to build whatever we want to build.’ It really is what Edmonton needs and what the demand is.”

"We need to have people living here. not leaving during the day – but also here at night."

ProCura says they will look for ways to preserve the history of the building, including possibly keeping part of the building’s lobby.

However, Schluessel says the property will also be updated and modernized. 

"A lot of glass – that's what we're using now," she said, describing the design as something that will stand the test of time.

But Kathryn Ivany, an archivist for the city, said demolishing the building will be a loss for Edmonton – especially since several other heritage buildings were destroyed over the past two years.

"it's unfortunate – because it is one of the very few remainders of the international style buildings that we have in the downtown area."

However, Ivany added the new plans will suit the city’s changing downtown.

“It’s a bit disheartening for those of us who love the old Edmonton, but we realized Edmonton is a progressive city. There’s lots of new development, lots of interest in revitalizing downtown – and maybe this is the way that has to happen.” 

Cafe not told about plan to demolish

Sohail Zaidi, owner of the Remedy Cafe on the west end of the Paramount block, says he didn’t know about the redevelopment plan until contacted by CBC News on Friday.

"If that's true really I'm sad. And with me I have 100 percent repeat customer here. And then they will be very sad,” said Zaidi.

“At this corner, it was not a very (lively) corner and Remedy make it happen,” he said. “I made this corner totally alive...and this corner give a lot back to me too. I love the downtown.”

Zaidi is also worried about a new Mexican restaurant on the block that opened within the past few months.

He says he will wait to speak with the management of the building before deciding what to do with his business.

With files from Andrea Huncar


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