The Tivoli theatre, a heritage building in downtown Hamilton that has been called an eyesore since part of it collapsed eight years ago, is attracting buyer attention, CBC News has learned.
The owner of the Tivoli Theatre, the Hamilton-based Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble (CBYE), said there is a serious offer on the table. But Belma Diamante, CEO of the ballet company, would not reveal the prospective buyer's identity.
"I can't go public right now with specifics," she said. "We're seriously considering an interested party. A number of details have to be worked out."
The CBYE and Diamante acquired the theatre in 2004 from the Sniderman family, of Sam the Record Man fame, for $1.
In June of that year, while the Snidermans still owned the Tivoli, a south-facing wall collapsed inside the building, pushing debris through an exterior wall. The last time the Tivoli was in use was between 1998 and 2004 when the Snidermans rented the Tivoli to a local theatre company, the Tivoli Renaissance Project.
At least three groups have made offers
Later in 2004, the city spent $300,000 to demolish the front portion of the building, which included the original facade that faced James Street North, the long lobby leading into the theatre and the washrooms.
At least two other community groups have made offers to buy the Tivoli, CBC News has also learned.
Tim Potocic, owner of the nearby Sonic Unyon record label and Supercrawl organizer, said he's met with the CBYE board of directors. His offer was turned down.
Potocic said he wanted "to restore it and bring it back as a venue."
Glen Norton, Hamilton's manager of urban renewal planning and economic development, said he is frustrated with the lack of progress in renewing this piece of the city's history.
The $300,000 for demolition was not the last money the city has put into the Tivoli since the wall collapsed.Norton said the city gave a grant to the Tivoli's owners in 2009 for $75,455 for building stabilization and heating improvements. In 2008, the owners were given $20,000 to pay for a heritage feasibility study to identify potential uses for the property and gage community interest in the building's restoration, Norton said.
'I would like to see this move ahead now'
City council also approved a $50,000 interest-free loan to retrofit the roof in December 2009.
"I would like to see this move ahead now," Norton told CBC Hamilton.
City councillor Brian McHattie is equally frustrated. He sits on the city's heritage committee and is nervous that if the building sits for much longer, it will fall into further disrepair.
"I'm very concerned that the building stays as is," McHattie said of the building, which has suffered water damage since the collapse.
Coun. Jason Farr, who represents the area, agrees. "Right now, it's an eyesore," Farr said. "I'd like to see something done."
McHattie said he and Farr met with theatre owner Diamante in early October.
"She talked about a developer, and we said we want to hear more about that," he said.
Could be a new venue for music, dance and theatre
McHattie said another meeting with Diamante is scheduled for the end of this month and he has a few questions. "Is there a buyer? Can we move this along? Maybe we can revisit previous offers?"
Potocic said he watched the Tivoli's wall collapse from his Wilson Street office in 2004 and just wants something to happen with the theatre.
"I just want to see it redeveloped," he said. "I would love for it to be me, but it doesn't have to be."
Potocic's initiative to purchase the Tivoli would bring local community groups and stakeholders together to run the theatre.
He said he'd like to remove the existing seats to create a big, open room with a stage for concerts, dance performances and theatre. He would add seating, but in a configuration that could be moved around.
"I think flexibility is the key to success here," he said.
Potocic would not disclose how much his company offered for the property, but he called it "a substantial amount."