Vancouver's arts community was shocked on Wednesday when a press release was issued by the operators of the historic Waldorf Hotel announcing they will shut down productions as of January 20 because of the sale of the complex to a developer.
The hotel was revitalized in 2010 when a 15-year lease was signed by a group of partners led by Thomas Anselmi, Ernesto Gomez, Scott Chen, and Daniel Fazio. They re-opened the Waldorf in October of that year with a vision to create a welcoming cultural hub in the heart of East Vancouver.
The community-oriented venue has been host to eclectic events and festivals including the Cheaper Show, Eastside Culture Crawl, Polaris Music Prize, New Forms Festival, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver International Film Festival, PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and culture producers like Black Mountain, Douglas Coupland, Rodney Graham, Grimes, Japandroids, and Paul Wong. In addition to live music, the multi-use space has also hosted art exhibitions, readings, magazine launches, and much more.
Despite successful programming there were financial difficulties during the first year, and the landlord was willing to forgive some rent. However, according to the Waldorf press release, in August “the landlord’s attitude changed overnight". Waldorf operators were offered a four-month lease. Upon its expiry last week they were told that the property had been sold to the condo developer Solterra Group of Companies and were offered a week-to-week lease until September 2013. Anselmi says that Solterra were unwilling to discuss negotiating long-term lease possibilities, so the partners have opted to shut down production activities instead. Over 60 people will lose their jobs as a result.
In a Georgia Straight report today, Waldorf Hotel lawyer Gavin Crickmore said that the hotel would continue operations and that Waldorf Productions had not confirmed that they are leaving. "Patrons of the hotel can expect it to be business as usual on the 20th," he said. "The business of the hotel, obviously, is going to stay open.” He told the Straight that he is unable to confirm comments made by Anselmi regarding a sale or potential sale of the property, and a rep from Solterra had not returned the Straight's call by the deadline.
The Waldorf's creative team is seeking a space where they can continue the high-quality arts and entertainment programming the venue has become known for.
Mayor Gregor Robertson released the following statement online on Wednesday:
"The Waldorf closing is a big loss to Vancouver’s growing creative community. They built a great culture hub, and it’s my hope that they’ll be able to re-launch and return in some form in the near future. Supporting Vancouver’s dynamic arts and culture sector is a top priority of our City Council, and the City is exploring ways to support the Waldorf continuing as one of Vancouver’s most unique and vibrant cultural spaces."
Additional background from the Mayor’s Office:
The site at 1489 East Hastings is currently zoned for mixed-use commercial purposes, not residential development. Any change in zoning would require extensive neighbourhood consultation and approval by City Council.
UPDATE: January 11, 2013
Solterra Group of Companies issued a statement Thursday assuring that it currently has “no intention of demolishing” the hotel.
“We have an open mind about the future of this site and we are studying all the options,” CEO Gerry Nichele wrote. “We want to work with the City to explore possible ways to retain and improve the hotel.”
The current leaseholders plan to vacate the property on January 20, but Solterra won’t be taking possession of the Waldorf until September.