The loss of the Century Theatre is just another chapter in a long and tragic saga: the destruction of our historical treasures and collective architectural memory.
By Adrian Duyzer
Published January 09, 2010
Take a moment to search the Internet for "hamilton century theatre". The first result you'll see is on a site called Cinema Treasures, a site dedicated to uniting "movie theater owners and enthusiasts in a common cause - to save the last remaining movie palaces across the country".
It's too late for the Century Theatre, unfortunately. This cinema treasure is going to come crashing down as early as Monday, according to The Spectator:
Barring a last-minute miracle, the entire Century Theatre will come down as early as Monday, the city's chief building official says.
The city ordered owner Zoran Cocov, of Lyric Century Apartments, to have an engineer with heritage background inspect the site immediately, following an independent engineering report that led the city to deem the property unsafe on Thursday.
[Director of building services John Spolnik] said he won't officially order the building be torn down until the new engineer's report is on his desk Monday.
But he said from what he's been told, he can't foresee any reason to change his mind.
Zoran Cocov, the building's owner, purchased the Century almost ten years ago. He says that when it was purchased the roof was already partially collapsed. Apparently he didn't do anything to fix it, because since then it has only deteriorated further. Now all the floors have collapsed, turning the building into an unstable shell.
Let's do the math. Cocov purchases the building a decade ago with a roof in dire need of repair. He did not repair it, even though he knew it needed to be repaired. Instead he did nothing until it became so dangerously unsafe it is now going to be demolished.
Take a look at this photo tour of the interior and ask yourself if you, personally, would tolerate leaving a building - a historic building! - in this condition for almost a decade. Most people I know wouldn't even tolerate owning a shed in this condition.
The obvious conclusion? I can only surmise that Cocov followed a deliberate strategy of demolition by neglect. I think he either intended to follow this strategy before he purchased the building, or he failed to perform a duly diligent engineering review of it before purchasing it and then decided to demolish it by neglect when its condition became apparent to him later.
Either way, this behaviour is totally unacceptable. It shows a callous disregard for the condition of Hamilton's neighbourhoods, for our collective historical wealth, and for public safety. It's really not that complicated: if you can't fix it, don't buy it. If you bought it and you can't fix, sell it to someone who will.
According to The Spec, Cocov believes that in "hindsight", he could have done things better. Now there's an understatement.
So, like so many of Hamilton's other historical treasures, this heritage-designated building (since 2001, just the facade has been designated) is about to disappear. But good news: Cocov says that some elements will be retained - like the sign.
Thanks for saving the sign, Mr. Cocov. Your diligence in protecting Hamilton's historical architecture will not go unnoticed.
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