Preservation Alert

  • November 1, 2016

    New York, NY – Harlem’s protracted Victoria Theater redevelopment may move forward

    Image

    From Curbed NY: The long-stalled Victoria Theater redevelopment project in Harlem may finally be making some progress, the New York Post reports. Their reporter spotted a notice relating to “earthwork” at the site, which was posted there last month.

    The plan has undergone so many changes since it was announced over a decade, so it’s hard to keep track of what’s actually going on at the site right now. While this latest notice hasn’t yet appeared on the city’s Department of Buildings website, the most recent iteration of the plans call for a 26-story tower at the site with 200 rentals, half of which will be affordable, and a Renaissance by Marriott hotel.

    Plans call for the historic theater to be restored and incorporated into the tower. The most recent version of the plans were filed by developer Lam Group in October 2014, and demolition work at the site got underway in the summer of 2015. The progress since then however has been excruciatingly slow.

    This latest notice may be a sign of things moving forward, but no word yet on when the Aufgang Architects-designed building will actually be completed.

    Designed in 1917 by noted architect Thomas W. Lamb, the theater opened as the Loew’s Victoria Theater and could seat nearly 2,400 people. In the late 1980s the large auditorium was converted into multiple theaters, and it wasn’t until 2005 that redevelopment proposals were submitted for the site.

  • October 3, 2016

    San Jose, CA – Historic Century 21 theater’s future uncertain

    Image

    From The Mercury News: The future of the Century 21 dome is as unclear as ever, with the San Jose City Council deciding not to shut the door on the possibility of stripping the city landmark down to its steel structure.

    That idea, you’ll recall, was part of Federal Realty’s proposal for Santana West, a commercial and office development that is planned for the site of the dome movie theaters on Winchester Boulevard. The bones of the theater would become part of an open space area on the privately-held property.

    When the council certified the development’s environmental impact report, it included a statement overriding city staff’s recommendation and allowing consideration of modifications to the theater — including those that would eliminate the historic characteristics that qualified the theater for the National Register of Historic Places.

    Any modifications would still have to come back to the city council for approval, but given that Councilmen Don Rocha and Ash Kalra were the only ones defending the theater, it’s hard to imagine Mayor Sam Liccardo and the others not backing Federal Realty’s plans in the absence of a good alternative.

  • September 1, 2016

    Norwalk, CT – Aquarium visitors fear potential closing of IMAX Theater

    Image

    From The Hour: Standing outside the entrance to the IMAX Theater on Monday afternoon, the Rivas family of Warwick, N.Y., viewed display boards showing marine life in Long Island Sound and beyond.

    Victor M. Rivas described the theater as part of the educational experience when visiting The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

    “We do like the theater. It’s because it’s attached to the Aquarium and because of what they’re showing,” Rivas said. “The theater always has something to offer, something interesting — not to mention my daughter is really interested in ocean life.”

    A source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Hearst Connecticut Media that the state Department of Transportation is in negotiations to take the IMAX Theater to facilitate replacement of the bridge.

    Rivas expressed surprised upon learning about the possibility.

    “It doesn’t make any sense if it’s a staging area,” Rivas said. “The staging area could be moved. It could be put somewhere else if that’s the case.”

    The 120-year-old railway bridge bisects the Aquarium, separating the animal exhibits from the theater. The bridge has failed to open and close properly on numerous occasions over the last two years. The DOT is moving forward to replace the bridge. Preliminary work, such as test borings, are already underway for the estimated $1 billion project that is slated to begin in mid-2018.

    The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk/IMAX Theater is Norwalk’s biggest tourist attraction. Since opening in 1988, the Aquarium now draws up to 500,000 visitors annually to its 34 exhibits with 1,200 marine animals.

    Visitors come from Norwalk and throughout the region. A number of out-of-town visitors said Monday that they were unaware of the upcoming bridge replacement even as trains rumbled across the bridge outside.

    To get from the Aquarium exhibits to the IMAX Theater, visitors must walk through a short tunnel. Along the tunnel walls are posters advertising a selection of movies that have played in the theater over the years.

    Margie Basil, a New Jersey resident, waited with her granddaughter Mackenzie McGonigle of Norwalk to enter the 310-seat theater. Offerings included “National Parks Adventures,” “Born To Be Wild,” “Flight of the Butterflies,” “A Beautiful Planet” and “Humpback Whales.”

    “I’m taking her here today to see ‘A Beautiful Planet’ at the IMAX and to go through the Aquarium,” Basil said. “We’re very surprised to find out that there might be some type of interruption because of the bridge. I am very annoyed about the whole situation.”

    DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said Friday that the department is in discussions about the impacts of the bridge replacement on the Aquarium and the IMAX Theater. He reminded that both attractions are located on property owned by the city of Norwalk.

    “I can’t say today when a decision will be made,” Everhart said when asked about the fate of the theater.

    In an effort to keep the public informed about the Walk Bridge replacement, the DOT has created a website (walkbridgect.com) and held public information meetings. An open house was held Aug. 16 in the lobby of the IMAX Theater. The department has placed at the entrance to the theater a standing sign with small display board explaining the project.

    Sigworth said the Aquarium is preparing for how the bridge replacement will impact the animal exhibits and theater. For now, it’s business as usual for visitors. He said the Aquarium is following it normal practices. As such, the Aquarium has booked movies for the theater through June 2017 and continues to market the Aquarium to school districts through the region, he said.

    “If they want to start planning their field trips for next April, they know what movies are going to be playing,” Sigworth said. “You have to sign contracts with these movie distributors so we know what we’re showing into next summer.”

    Sigworth estimated that about a thousands visitors walked through the doors of the Aquarium on Monday, including many children who stepped into the “Giant Walk-In Whale” or the ‘Flutter Zone’ walk-through butterfly exhibit. Both run through Labor Day.

    A good number of visitors also made their way to the IMAX Theater. The Aquarium offers a package deal. For $22.95, adults can visit both the Aquarium and IMAX Theater. The cost is $20.95 for teenagers and senior citizens and $15.95 for children aged three to 12.

    “You get an IMAX movie with your admission ticket,” Sigworth said. “So you just basically come in and just pick which movie you want to see. Most everyone takes advantage of it.”

  • August 30, 2016

    Baltimore, MD – Major work planned to preserve historic Mayfair Theater’s facade

    Image

    From foxbaltimore.com: A nonprofit agency in Baltimore is working to save a piece of the past along Howard Street for future generations.

    The Baltimore Development Corporation, a nonprofit economic development agency in the city, has been working on the area around the former Mayfair Theater at the edge of the Mt. Vernon neighborhood.

  • August 26, 2016

    Las Vegas, NV – State, Huntridge Theater Owner Settling Suit Over Historic Venue

    Image

    From Nevada Public Radio: The state of Nevada and the owner of the Huntridge Theater are settling a lawsuit that complicated efforts to restore the east Charleston Boulevard landmark.

    In 2014, the state of Nevada sued Huntridge owner Eli Mizrachi, contending he failed to protect the building, a condition that came with his purchase of the state-designated historic site.

    The proposed settlement halves $750,000 sought by the state and gives Mizrachi the opportunity to avoid any payment if he makes improvements to the building and makes it a usable building where events are held several times a year.

    The deal also extends for 12 years restrictions on what he can do with the property.

    The state Commission on Cultural Centers and Historic Preservation votes on the matter this week.

    Heidi Swank is a Nevada assemblywoman and the CEO of the Nevada Preservation Foundation. She told KNPR’s State of Nevada that she thinks it’s a good compromise.

    “I think that’s really the big thing that the community and the state wants to see is to not have this important building to our community just sitting there empty in disrepair not functioning,” she said, “This I think it provides both a carrot and a stick to get us where we want to be with that building.”

    The Huntridge opened in 1944 as a glittering example of streamline modern architecture at the eastern outskirts of a town of 15,000.

  • August 5, 2016

    Robbinsdale, MN – Robbinsdale to consider fate of Terrace Theater

    Image

    From MPR News: The Robbinsdale City Council will consider the future of the historic Terrace Theater at its meeting Monday night.

    The venue has been closed since the late ‘90s. But when it was built in 1951, it was considered one of the most luxurious theaters in the country. It catered to movie-goers not only from around the metro, but from all over the country and abroad.

    Robbinsdale is now considering demolishing the building to make way for a new grocery store and other development. MPR’s Cathy Wurzer spoke with David Leonhardt, who chairs a local group that’s come together to fight that vision.

  • Baltimore, MD – Can we rescue Baltimore’s Mayfair Theatre?

    Image

    From The Baltimore Sun: fter decades of inaction, Baltimore’s Mayfair Theatre faces imminent demise. According to engineering reports commissioned by the Baltimore Housing Authority, all but the first 35 feet of the 1903 landmark — the façade and lobby — must fall to the wrecker’s ball because of public safety concerns. However, I cannot help but be skeptical. A blank slate may make it easier for redevelopment, but at what cost to the city? The Mayfair’s cultural and historical significance will be swept away in the rubble, along with the potential for an iconic addition to the city’s Bromo Arts District.

    The Mayfair is essentially three structures: the lobby, the auditorium and the fly tower. The Baltimore Development Corporation says that the roof over the lobby is the only portion of cover that’s intact, but upon inspection, the fly tower roof also appears whole, suggesting that this section of the structure may be stable and therefore salvageable. What were the engineers' findings on the west side fly tower? And what would be required to stabilize the north and south walls of the structure in lieu of demolishing them? The engineering reports and related correspondence should be shared with the public. Otherwise, it is difficult to be certain whether public safety or developer convenience is the deciding factor.

    Left intact, the Mayfair Theatre bears witness to Baltimore’s cultural shifts and creative adaptation through much of the 20th century. The site began life as a public bath house (vestiges still remain in the basement). As pastimes changed, the Mayfair evolved — as an ice skating rink, then a playhouse, a Vaudeville venue and finally a movie theater before closing its doors in 1980.

    The entire vicinity was once a vibrant center for arts and culture. The Stanley Theatre used to sit just north of the Mayfair; now a parking lot, the Stanley had been the largest theater in Baltimore. The Hotel Kernan around the corner (now the Congress Hotel) also began life as a Turkish bath house, and over the years featured a German beer hall and vaudeville theater presenting acts like Charlie Chaplin and Will Rogers. Into the 1980s, the basement’s Marble Bar hosted punk and new wave bands like REM and Iggy Pop, in addition to many talented local musicians.

    In 1993, Mayor Kurt Schmoke laid out a compelling vision for the Howard Street corridor as a magnet for artists and arts events. He understood the importance of building on the heritage and history of the area. In 2012, this vision was reinforced with the creation of the Bromo Arts District, which extends along Howard Street from Lombard to Read.

    Despite this broader vision, the BDC’s West Side Strategic Plan sought to “redevelop the Congress Hotel and the Mayfair Theatre to create desirable residential development.” But the last thing an old theater’s architecture lends itself to is apartments. RFP after RFP for mixed use residential retail developments were issued for the Mayfair. These were bound to fail, and they did time and again. In the meantime, neither the city nor BDC ever took action to stabilize this historic treasure. Instead, they awaited some potential developer to fix the roof. So this beautiful treasure sat exposed to the elements for nearly 20 years — demolition by neglect.

  • August 4, 2016

    Worcester, MA – A rare look inside Worcester’s abandoned Paris Cinema

    Image

    From MassLive: A tour through the present-day Paris Cinema makes one thing clear: If the theater is to be revitalized, there is a lot of work to be done.

    The Grid apartment complex, which owns the Paris Cinema, would like to demolish the dilapidated Worcester cinema and replace it with a beer garden, which would put on live shows and outdoor movie screenings.

    According to a Joe Donovan, vice president of MG2, the company that owns The Grid, said demolishing the building might only cost $500,000. A look at the inside of the old theater Monday shows the property to be in an intense state of decay, which Donovan said would cost upwards of $20 million to restore.

    “This is just my opinion here, but it seems to me with what we’re doing with The Brew and the significant capital investment we’ve put into the building, I don’t really see the Paris Cinema as a good representation of Worcester today, or Worcester tomorrow.” said Frank Peace, who is opening five restaurants in The Grid.

    The Paris Cinema was originally named the Capitol Theater, which opened in 1925. It closed down in 1966 for renovations and became the Paris Cinema in 1967, with the first showing being Bonnie and Clyde. By 1980 however, the cinema had become an adult movie theater, and it was closed down in 2006 by authorities following allegations of sex acts taking place in the building.

    There is another vote coming up in mid-August to determine the future of the Paris Cinema, where Grid representatives will argue that returning the theater to its former glory would be fiscally infeasible.

  • July 14, 2016

    Hillsboro, OH – Council hears hotel plan, talks Colony’s fate

    Image

    From The Times-Gazette: A potential hotel development in uptown Hillsboro and the likely demolition of the Colony Theatre were discussed at Hillsboro City Council’s meeting Monday night.

    Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings told council that a feasibility study commissioned on a potential hotel in the uptown area came back with positive results, indicating “a huge win-win” for the city.

    Hastings said a hotel would be along the lines of a 50-room Hampton Inn providing a middle to upper-scale facility, a $4 million development that would provide 31 construction jobs, 28-30 jobs outside the hotel, and have a ripple effect amounting to $5.5 million a year for the city’s economy.

  • June 20, 2016

    Worcester, MA – Owner of former Paris Cinema wants to demolish building

    Image

    From The Telegram: One of the buildings targeted for demolition by the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, as part of its Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan, could come down much sooner than envisioned.

    The owner of the former Paris Cinema, 66-70 Franklin St., has petitioned the Historical Commission for a waiver to the city’s demolition delay ordinance, which puts a one-year hold on tearing down historical buildings.

    In its application, Quincy-based Worcester Park Plaza LLC indicated that it wants to demolish the vacant 90-year-old, three-story brick and concrete building because of its “severe structural deterioration.”

    The building is said to have code violations, as well as health and safety issues.

    The Fire Department has placed an “X” sign on the front of the building, which has been closed since 2006, to warn firefighters that it is unsafe.

    Bolton & DiMartino Inc., local consulting structural engineers, said they have found the exterior brick of the building to be in poor condition and said it needs to be rebuilt at severely deteriorated areas because of a lack of maintenance for decades.

    It also found the interior of the building to be in poor condition, with significant deterioration from water infiltration and lack of maintenance.

    “Based on our limited review of the existing conditions, it is our professional opinion that the Paris Cinema is structurally compromised and presents safety concerns in its current condition,” wrote Christopher Tutlis, an engineer with the firm.

    “We recommend limiting access to the theater due to falling finishes, and concerns of the integrity of the floors, roof and stairs,” he added.

    As part of its application, the company indicated that one of the reasons it is seeking a demolition delay waiver is economic hardship.

    The Historical Commission is scheduled to take up the petition for a waiver at its meeting on June 30.

    Before then, representatives of the building owner are supposed to meet with staff from the city Division of Planning and Regulatory Services to provide additional information on the need for the waiver.

    Because the building is listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System, it is subject to the demolition delay ordinance.

    The purpose of the ordinance is to delay demolition for up to 12 months so there could be additional time to explore alternative uses for a historic building or a new owner for it.

    The Historical Commission can waive the ordinance, however, if the owner is able to prove that a building’s demolition will not negatively impact the historical or architectural resources or the city, or that it would cause an undue economic hardship to keep the building up for another year.

    There are actually three buildings on the parcel at 66-70 Franklin St. – the former Paris Cinema and two brick buildings with frontage on Portland Street.

    While the movie theater portion of the building is three stories in height, the buildings with frontage on Portland Street are up to five stories tall. Those buildings will be left in place when the theater portion of the building is demolished.