Preservation Alert

  • August 26, 2016

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

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    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

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    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?

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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.

  • May 10, 2016

    Newark, NJ – One Man’s Fight to Save the Paramount

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    From The Star-Ledger: Carmine Cicurillo has two plans to save Newark’s historic Paramount Theater.

    Plan A has him winning the lottery.

    “Then I’d refurbish it and build a penthouse on top, and live there like the ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ ” he said.

    Plan B is to get officials and developers to see what he sees: a majestic part of Newark’s glory days. A community gathering place that could again be a downtown entertainment anchor, if only people had his passion and belief — and the millions of dollars he doesn’t have.

    Cicurillo admits Plan A has a better chance.

    But it would have to be a hefty lottery, the Powerball or Mega Millions kind.

  • March 8, 2016

    Foreclosure Sale of Old Ocean Avenue Movie House Shocks Neighbors

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    J.K. Dineen reports in The San Francisco Chronicle: “Nearly four decades after it was converted from a grand movie palace into a Pentecostal church, drama has returned to the El Rey Theater on Ocean Avenue.

    Only this time the action isn’t on the silver screen but over the building itself.

    In December, the El Rey changed hands for the first time since 1977, selling in a trustee sale on the steps of City Hall for $1.06 million. The seller was the Stanford Federal Credit Union, which had foreclosed on the property after the church, now called A Place to Meet Jesus, defaulted on a loan. The buyer was a joint venture between Ricci Ventures and Greenpoint Land Co., both Marin investment groups.

    For residents in the surrounding neighborhoods of Ingleside Terraces, Mount Davidson Manor and Balboa Terrace — many of whom have long hoped the building would someday return to use as a community center or theater — the reaction has been a mix of disappointment and hope.

  • November 30, 2015

    Theatre Gems: Here is wonderful news from our friends at CJS Architects!

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    Buffalo Architecture Foundation (BAF) is pleased to announce Dirk Schneider, AIA, Partner at CJS Architects, as the recipient of the Pro Bono Publico Award in Distinguished Service for his remarkable commitment to the historic Chautauqua Amphitheater.

  • October 16, 2015

    The State of Theatres in Boston – From the Boston Globe

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    The Colonial Theatre would be transformed into a dining hall and performance space under Emerson College’s plan. Shirley Lang writes, “As I sat in Emerson College’s Colonial Theatre on Sunday, it was hard for me to enjoy the hysterically funny musical “The Book of Mormon” without wondering whether this is the end of the Colonial as we know it.

    But it wasn’t just that. I got ticked thinking about what’s happening to the acclaimed Huntington Theatre Company, possibly put out on the street by Boston University’s decision to sell the drama group’s longtime home. Or that Citibank, in exiting the Massachusetts market, will end its multimillion-dollar sponsorship of the performing arts. Meanwhile, the Boston Lyric Opera announced last week that it will leave the Citi Shubert Theatre in search of a more affordable venue.