MONTREAL -- The iconic building that was once home to the Loews Theatre in downtown Montreal will be turned into condos -- a decision that's not good news to everyone.

Developers say they're confident people are itching to come live downtown, but Heritage Montreal is worried about what will happen to a piece of the city's history.

"The community, the business community, is just waiting for the right time to come back to downtown," said Brivia Group vice president Vincent Kou.

"Since the beginning of the year, we saw the market picking up again.There's still a big interest to choose and opt to live in downtown."

The Loews Theatre, on Ste. Catherine St. just west of Mansfield St., opened its doors in 1917. It was a grand movie theatre where Montrealers could watch a film for just a few cents.

When the theatre closed two decades ago, a gym moved in, but it kept much of the architecture intact.

Now, the condo project would gut the first floor to make room for stores.

"We have to basically tear it down, but some of the pieces here, we try to preserve it and we try to integrate back into the new building, the new project," said Kou.

The developer said it would showcase some of the architecture in an alleyway behind the building between Mansfield and Metcalfe streets.

"In the major portion of that alleyway, we will feature some special design to commemorate... rendre hommage like we say in French, to the Loews Theatre," said Kou.

Heritage Montreal, however, feels this plan would still be a big loss.

"We're talking of something which is a century old. There used to be many of them in that strip of Ste. Catherine, making Montreal the bustling cultural hub that we know today, and this one is the last one to stand," said Heritage Montreal policy director Dinu Bumbaru.

"To keep a few mouldings, I mean, we have to understand this is plaster architecture. So to dismantle pieces will be something of an ordeal, almost a utopia."

Heritage Montreal hopes something can be done to save more of the original theatre before construction starts this summer.