A public hearing date has been set on a proposed agreement to preserve and restore one of Cloverdale’s most recognizable heritage landmarks – the Clova theatre.
On March 23, Surrey city council will seek public input on a proposed Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) bylaw that’s required before any renovations can be carried out by the building’s new owner.
Shuttered as a family-owned and operated movie house this past summer, the mid-century Streamline Moderne gem was designed by H. H. Simmonds and opened in 1947. It’s valued today as one of the first modern buildings in Cloverdale built during the postwar era.
The Clova was gussied up with new signage and a burgundy, black and gold paint job in the mid-2000s, thanks to a dazzling makeover for its starring role as a filming location for TV’s Smallville series.
The Feb. 23 planning report considered by council says “fairly significant” changes were made to the building at the time.
The theatre was operated most recently as The Clova Cinema (1992-2014). The operator was unable to secure a long-term lease with the building’s owner, cutting short local Craig Burghardt’s dream of converting to a digital projection system, a move that would have ensured the Clova’s next chapter as a family-operated movie house.
CrossRidge Church had been renting the auditorium for Sunday morning services for several years before purchasing the building in March of 2014.
The HRA will ensure the new owners (Willingdon Charitable Holdings Society) will preserve and restore the heritage building, listed on the Surrey Heritage Register since 1998.
Property agent Bernie Scholz was not available for comment by the Reporter’s press deadline. However, last spring he said a building inspection revealed the Clova needs a new roof and repairs to the front canopy.
The HRA bylaw, which has the support of the Heritage Advisory Commission, passed first and second reading at the Feb. 23 council meeting, is a detailed conservation plan for the building, located at 5732 176 Street.
If approved, the plan will usher in some noticeable cosmetic changes to the building’s exterior, including the paint scheme, which would revert to the Clova’s original colours.
The heritage consultant has recommended cottage cream and gloss black, historically accurate colours that are pre-approved by the City of Surrey, but may not please everyone.
“We support the concept of keeping Clova historic but members prefer the design and colour scheme as it now exists, rather than the original scheme which we consider flat and boring,” Cloverdale Community Association Mike Bola wrote in a September letter to the city’s planning department. “Most residents of Cloverdale identify with the present look, which has existed for several decades, and few can recollect the Clova of long ago.”
The Clova’s conservation plan was drafted according to recommendations made by heritage consultant Donald Luxton and Associates, who completed a report in July.
The theatre has been “drastically altered over the years,” the report says. “Fortunately, a number of original features and archival images do exist, which will enable a more accurate restoration of the front facade.”
Recommendations include replacing all signage installed above the marquee for Smallville with signage designed to look like the Clova’s original signs, down to neon lettering and strip lighting.
Changes to the marquee, facade, windows, box office, lighting and interior features are also set out in the HRA bylaw. The wall sign on the north side of the building would be preserved.
Restoration of the theatre must start within 90 days of the adoption of the agreement.
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H. H. Simmonds, a prominent local architect, designed numerous movie theatres across B.C.
He was an expert in designing large, clear-span concrete structures with truss roofs – a fireproof feature for public buildings, including some of the large buildings on the PNE fairgrounds: the livestock barn and the garden auditorium.
In a region that’s lost innumerable heritage buildings, the Clova is also valuable because it’s a rare surviving example in Surrey of the Streamline Modern style, a variant of Art Deco. Characterized by rounded corners and smooth surfaces, the style is influenced by the design of airplanes, steamships and locomotives.