The owner of the Mayfair Theater says he has been taken aback by the news that the historic building housing his cinema has been put up for sale.
“A client came over and told my partner there was a list,” said Lee Demarbre, owner and programmer of the Mayfair Theater. “It was alarming to all of us that we found out that way.”
The building, located near the corner of Bank Street and Sunnyside Avenue in Old Ottawa South, was built in 1932 and also houses the Quinn’s Ale House pub and the Opus Barber Shop.
We cannot be emptied. It must remain a cinema.– Lee Demarbre, Mayfair Theater
The listing released by an Ottawa real estate agent says Mayfair still has a year-long lease and the rent the theater pays “is well below market value.” According to the list, the space “can be easily converted to other stores and will certainly yield better returns when fully occupied”.
The ad goes on to state that the property has great redevelopment potential and includes an asking price of $ 2,999,900.
CBC made several attempts to reach the listing agent on Wednesday morning, but received no response.
Heritage status inside and out
The Mayfair was designed as a Spanish Revival-style theater intended to suggest the vibe of a Mediterranean plaza, and the interior features a painted ceiling, false balconies, and ornate plasterwork.
Demarbre said whoever wrote the list failed to understand that these features, and others, led to the building being granted official heritage status in 2008 by the City of Ottawa.
“We are protected outside and inside,” Demarbre said. “We cannot be emptied. It must remain a cinema… that’s what our heritage status stipulates.”
Under the Ontario Heritage Act, the property owner would need permission from city council to alter or demolish the building.
A plaque honoring the heritage status of the building is currently affixed to the southeast corner of the building.
“I would like to think that meant something,” Demarbre said. “I like to think the City of Ottawa will protect the building.
He added that he had not spoken to the owner yet since the announcement of the sale was announced, and he hopes to continue showing films and hosting events in the historic building.
“We’re having a great time running our cinema,” Demarbre said. “We hope that in the future we can just continue to make it work in exactly the same way.”