The 98-year-old Empire Theatre on Probyn Street, The City, which had been closed since 1975, is about to be restored into a performing arts facility at a cost of some $15 million.
Developer Mark Maloney announced yesterday that the ‘Triple Threat Operation’ with a proposed seating capacity of 600 people, will be “a performing arts studio developing young children who have a passion to aspire in performing arts.”
Maloney, who said he had been refused planning permission to establish a craft facility on the site of the Empire after acquiring the lease about six years ago, disclosed that he was now on the verge of a revised project.
“We had been refused permission for what we wanted to do at the Empire, which was originally to incorporate a craft brewery and some other things. We changed up the design to turn it in into a full theatre,” said Maloney, who has started work on the Hyatt Ziva Hotel Resort just a stone’s throw away from the Empire.
“We are a big part of Operation Triple Threat and we believe in what Operation Triple Threat is doing for the use of Barbados. I mean some amazing things. We would like to have it in a full operating theatre. You can see we have cleaned it up,” he said.
The prominent developer told reporters during a tour of the site for construction of the Hyatt, that new designs have been submitted to Town Planning for the restoration of the Empire, which he hopes can be incorporated into the Hyatt.
“We are hoping that we can incorporate the construction of that, along with what we are doing here and allow some benefits from that. It is near and dear to us. In fact, Rock Hard Cement is going to be a significant investor in that. So we are hoping we can get the roof on. The building is going to be restored in the exact condition it was in before, rather than do the extensions. It is in progress,” Maloney stated.
He noted that like anything else, they encountered some problems with the original concept and had to resort to restoring the building and look at how best to utilize the limited space to get the maximum seating.
Declaring that the start of the project was not being held up by Town Planning Department, Maloney said he wanted the help of international donors to get the venture off the ground.
“It is not a money-making venture. It is a significant cost and we don’t get the returns, so we trying to see if we can work with donors that do similar projects around the world to help us as well,” he disclosed.
The Empire Theatre opened in 1922 as a live theatre and first run motion picture theatre. In the mid-1940s, it was owned by the British Colonial Film Exchange, Ltd.
It has been closed since around 1975 and has slowly become derelict, but plans in 2003 had been submitted to restore and renovate the theatre into a home for the national company for performing arts.
Operation Triple Threat (OTT) is a registered Charity located in Barbados and is a developmental performing arts programme for students between the ages of seven and 21. It exposes students to the genre of musical theatre. (EJ)