By Chad Ingram
The new owner of the theatre in Mindenintends to operate the facility under a non-profit organization.
Rahim Lakhani made a presentation to MindenHills councillors during a Nov. 10 committee-of-the-whole meeting.
The Oshawa-based Lakhani purchased thetheatre in September. It has sat closed and shuttered along Water Street foryears after a brief reprisal in 2009.
The property was put up for tax sale afterthe previous owner went into arrears.
Lakhani is an engineer by trade and hisfamily has decades of experience in real estate development includingcondominium projects in Toronto.
While living in Toronto Lakhani was avolunteer with the Toronto International Film Festival and other arts-relatedevents.
“I've served there as a volunteer in theperforming arts area” he told council.
Lakhani gave a brief overview of thehistory of the Beaver Theatre from its construction in the 1950s by Lou andMolly Consky who also owned the Molou Theatre in Haliburton village and amovie theatre in Fenelon Falls to its demise in the 1990s.
“That brings me to the question are weever going to have a theatre in Minden Hills?” he said.
Lakhani is performing feasibility studiesthe results of which he hopes to have by early winter and has been consultingwith members of the community.
“There's a lot of great opportunity that'sin front of our eyes here” he said. “We've done a significant clean-up of theplace so we can understand what our priorities are.”
It appears the building's foundation andfootings are OK Lakhani said adding that some of the cement blocks thebuilding is constructed of need some work.
He's also performing a survey of theproperty to see what expansions might be possible as well as soil testingetc.
Lakhani has been looking at other oldtheatres that have been revived.
“The owner/operator model has failed”Lakhani said adding the conversion from reel to digital killed many movietheatres in North America. “Theatres were shut down.”
Some including the Aron Theatre inCampbellford and Barrie's Mady Theatre have been resuscitated throughcommunity-driven not-for-profit organizations.
“The theatre not-for-profit society is nowthe lead on it” Lakhani said.
And that is his vision for the theatre inMinden; a not-for-profit community partnership involving Minden Hills townshipthe community at large and what he's calling the Minden Hills TheatreNot-for-Profit Society which would be governed by a board of directors.
It would host movie festivals banquet andconference events live performances even college workshops and bingo nights.It would seat between 90 and 110.
Lakhani is looking to the township for anumber of permissions – including waivers on building permits planning feesetc. – as well as to act as the conduit through which grants are applied for.
The idea is that over time on-screen adsales memberships concession and bar sales etc. would reduce reliance ongrants and funding injections.
“What I ask is community involvement”Lakhani said.
His goal is to complete a business planget funding recruit volunteers do fundraising and collect construction anddesign bids by February of 2017 to have construction take place betweenFebruary and May and to host a red-carpet opening gala before the cottageseason starts.
Lakhani said he was also investigating thelegalities of using the Beaver Theatre name.
“You've created quite a stir to say theleast” Reeve Brent Devolin told Lakhani adding there is buzz throughout thecommunity and that people are excited. “I think you can tell already there'swidespread support.”
Devolin said some of the requests Lakhaniwas asking of the township may be easier done than others and thought thetimeline was optimistic.
“Your timelines are very aggressive”Devolin said. “Some of your asks are technically unavailable.”
The reeve said some of the requests wouldrequire amendments to Minden Hills' official plan and that approvals wouldultimately have to go through the County of Haliburton.
Devolin also said private/publicpartnerships were uncommon in the area and that some education on that frontwould be required.
“It's new ground” he said. “We don't havemuch experience with it in this jurisdiction. I know it's done elsewhere but Idon't know how.”
Councillor Pam Sayne said that given howmuch work Lakhani had done with clean-up and consultations since purchasing thebuilding in September she didn't think his timelines seemed unreasonable.