Preservation Alert

  • March 17, 2017

    Pittsburgh, PA – No appeal for Garden Theater block redevelopment effort

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    From the Post-Gazette: Several historic facades in the Garden Theater block on the North Side could end up becoming casualties in the battle over a proposed apartment building at the site.

    Bill Gatti, CEO of Trek Development, said Thursday that tearing down the facades is an option now that state Commonwealth Court has upheld a lower court ruling denying a zoning variance to the firm for the construction of an eight-story apartment building at the site.

    Trek had planned to spend $2.7 million to save and restore the facades, which date to the 1890s, to maintain the historical character of the block.

    But if they are removed, it could allow the developer to build a smaller building at the site in an effort to comply with the current zoning, which limits the height to 45 feet.

    “It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this. Historic preservation is a core value of Trek. But we’re bumping up against harsh economic realities that is causing us to consider something that we wouldn’t naturally consider,” he said. “We’re open to demolition if that’s what it takes.”

    Mr. Gatti said it is unlikely that Trek will appeal the Commonwealth Court decision to the state Supreme Court, but instead will set out to find another solution.

    As tough as it would be to lose the historic facades next to the Garden Theater, some URA board members said it should be considered given the court ruling.

    “I’ll tell you at this point, from the residents I’ve heard from, they say just tear it down. They’d rather see some development happen,” said URA board member R. Daniel Lavelle, a city councilman.

    Board member Cheryl Hall-Russell said she has also heard that, adding the “level of frustration is so high right now” among residents who supported the project.

    In 2015, the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment approved variances for Trek to build to 97 feet behind the facades, one of which is 70 feet tall, nearly double the 45-foot limit.

    The argument was that the old building already exceeded the current height restriction. But Commonwealth Court ruled that Trek “failed to meet its burden to prove that it was entitled to the variances.”

    Interestingly enough, attorneys for the appellate, Stephen Pascal, argued that the facades weren’t necessary and the money budgeted for their restoration could be used to build a smaller building.

  • Shawnee, KS – Downtown theater plans up in the air

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    From the Shawnee Dispatch: A Shawnee couple’s dream to renovate the former Aztec Theatre has been put on hold.

    But plans for reviving the historic movie theater may still be in the works; it might just be with a different owner.

    At the Shawnee Fine Arts board meeting last Wednesday evening, Liam and Marie Tripp announced to a stunned crowd they were unable to finalize their purchase of the little downtown theater.

    Property owner Wade Williams told them in an email last week, he is in the process of selling the venue to another party.

    The news comes two months after the Tripps announced to the Shawnee community they had bought the theater, currently called the Fine Arts Theatre, and they were waiting on legal documents to be drafted.

    Williams confirmed to the Dispatch he offered the property to the couple, given they had “earnest money,” or, in other words, funds to finalize a contract. A sales agreement had not been drawn up at the time the couple went public with the news, however.

    In early February, the couple organized and held a public meeting at the Shawnee Library to formally announce themselves as the new owners and to reveal their renovation plans for the movie theater, which sits near the corner of Johnson Drive and Nieman Road. The meeting drew around 100 people, including city officials.

    To develop fundraising plans for the theater’s renovation, and make it a community effort, the Tripps created a nonprofit organization, the Shawnee Fine Arts Foundation, and established a board for it which currently has 15 members.

    But Williams told the Dispatch soon after the Tripps publicly announced themselves as the new owners he started to question the couple’s financial ability to purchase the venue. Since there was no final contract, he began looking at other offers.

    Meanwhile, the Tripps continued to rally the community with their quest to reopen the beloved theater.

    Last month, Williams toured the vacant theater with the Tripps and a group of Shawnee Fine Arts board members.

    This month, he officially announced his intent to sell the theater to another party instead.

    He wouldn’t reveal the names of the potential new owners to the Dispatch, saying it was up to the buyers to reveal themselves when the time was ready.

    And although the Tripps may not be the new owners after all, hopes for the theater’s restoration haven’t changed.

    “I can confirm I have a sales agreement and hope the theater sells because the buyers are substantial and will restore the property back to a classic movie theater,” Williams said.

    When Liam announced the news at the Shawnee Fine Arts board meeting last week, the reaction was solemn.

    “I’m sorry if I disappointed you people,” he told the board members. “That was the last thing I wanted to do.”

    Despite Williams’ announcement of his intent to sell the theater to another party, Liam insisted he still wants to help the potential new owners make the former Aztec Theatre an asset to the community.

    He hopes all the work he and his wife spent rallying the community will benefit the theater and any new owners in the long run.

    “I lit the fire, but I don’t have to carry the torch,” he said.

    The board members agreed it would only be in the city’s best interest to work with the new owners.

    After all, they said, the goal of having the theater reopened hasn’t changed.

    Shawnee Fine Arts chairman Joe Bolander said it’s important for the community to remain optimistic.

    “If he (Williams) now has a contract with someone else, we can’t do anything except show our support,” he said. “I’ll be very disappointed if the new owner doesn’t open it as a theater.”

    Bolander, along with many of the other board members, joined forces with the Tripps to reopen the theater because they all want to see its former glory restored.

    They hope that dream is kept alive.

    “I drive by this theater on my way to church every Sunday and I always used to look to see if it was going to open,” Bolander said. “To have such a beautiful old theater in my backyard is amazing and history will be brought back to life if it reopens. It’s about nostalgia.”

  • February 9, 2017

    Chatham, VA – Something old to something new; proposal to turn old movie theatre into fishing store

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    From WSET.com: Doomsday doesn’t mean the end for a Chatham building. Danville Resident, Steve Delgiorno and his business partner will present their plans to the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors on Monday night. If approved, Delgiorno hopes to turn what was once a movie theater (Ed: Chatham Theater) into the new headquarters for Doomsday Tackle Company, a fishing company. The County has owned the building for about 30 years, and currently uses it for storage.

  • Takoma, MD – Historic Takoma Theatre To Be Renovated As Commercial Space

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    From the Silver Spring Patch: A commercial real estate investment company Rock Creek Property Group announced they broke ground on restoration of the historic Takoma Theatre Wednesday. The former theatre—just a five minute drive from Silver Spring—will be preserved while simultaneously converted into a commercial building.

    Takoma Theatre was build in the 1920s by architect John Jacob Zink, and was one of the first theaters in the area to feature “talkies,” or sound films, in 1929. Zink went on to design more than 200 theaters around the country.

    Due to the theater’s significant history, Rock Creek Property Group plans to restore the original exterior of the theater, while building the interior to meet the needs of businesses and apartment tenants.

  • February 7, 2017

    Columbus, IN – Awaiting an encore

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    From The Republic: Caretakers of the historic Crump Theatre, the iconic structure that has been mothballed for three years, continue to hold out hope that the right investor will arrive with a plan, a sustainable vision and an eye for restoration to bring the 127-year-old downtown theater back to life.

    “What I hope to find — how can I say this? — is a Crump angel,” said Hutch Schumaker, who leads the Columbus Capital Foundation.

    The foundation owns the building and works with the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County to keep it in stable condition while waiting for an investor who isn’t afraid of investing in basic mechanical upgrades and cosmetic work.

    “It’s one of those gems that if we allow it to go away, we’re never going to get something like that back,” Schumaker said.

  • February 1, 2017

    Highland, IN – Town Council cancels Town Theatre renovation

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    From nwitimes.com:
    The final curtain went down on the Town Theatre on Monday when the Town Council voted against a renovation of the long vacant building.

    A divided council voted 3-2 to reject a proposal, first made in 2014, to renovate and reopen the 71 year-old theater that was bought by the town in a county tax sale several years ago.

    Voting against the renovation were councilmen Mark Herak, I-2nd; Konnie Kuiper, D-2nd; and Council Vice president Steve Wagner, D-4th.

    Voting in favor were Councilman Bernie Zemen, D-1st and Council President Dan Vassar, D-3rd.

    The vote took place before a packed house of supporters and opponents.

    Because the proposal will never reach the drawing board, the historic building could soon face the wrecking ball because of its unsafe condition.

    The council’s vote instructed the Redevelopment Commission to cease all renovation efforts and seek contractor quotes to preserve the theater’s famous marquee and ticket booth.

    “The Town Theatre was not just about the theater,” Redevelopment Director Cecile Petro said. “It was to develop a district.”

  • January 31, 2017

    Menlo Park, CA – Menlo Park woman scrambles to shield cinema from developers

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    From The San Francisco Chronicle: Twice on Saturdays and twice on Sundays, Judy Adams walks from her Menlo Park home to the Guild Theatre on El Camino Real and back. She’s there when customers go into the old-time picture show and she’s there when they come out, but she doesn’t stay for the movie.

    Adams’ job, self-appointed and singularly motivated, is to get signatures for a petition to save the Guild, a single-screen cinema opened in 1926. It’s a heroic gesture considering that there is no indication the Guild is closing. But Landmark Theatres, which operates the Guild, is on a month-to-month lease, and the building may be for sale.

    Adams knows how this story ends, so she is taking “preemptive action,” she says, while standing in the cold of a January day last week before the 5 p.m. screening of “Manchester by the Sea.”

    “The goal is to get the city, Landmark Theatres and the owner talking about a way to keep a neighborhood theater and get it upgraded while keeping the charm of a small art house,” Adams says.

    If the Guild goes, so goes a long tradition of stand-alone movie theaters along the El Camino, the main commercial strip that connects all of the commuter towns that rose up alongside the tracks of the Southern Pacific line.

  • January 14, 2017

    Larchmont, NY – Petition Urges Regal Cinemas to Lift Restrictions on Larchmont Playhouse Purchase

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    From Larchmont Patch: An online petition trying to facilitate the reopening of the Larchmont Playhouse has been posted on change.org.

    According to a Larchmont resident, Ellen Zuckert, who has been leading the effort to save the movie house, Regal Cinemas can prevent future owners of the Playhouse from screening first-run films, making it nearly impossible to exist as a sustainable business, the Daily Voice said.

    Michael DiCosimo, a movie industry pro, signed a contract worth about $1.3 million last year to buy the iconic movie house on Palmer Avenue.

    In the petition, posted by Elizabeth Bradley of Larchmont, Regal became the owner of the Playhouse when it absorbed United Artists Cinema, and then sold it in 2015.

  • January 13, 2017

    Cleveland, OH – With demolition permit, it looks like curtains for long-vacant Center Mayfield Theatre

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    From Cleveland.com: Closing credits are rolling for the long-vacant Center Mayfield Theatre, with a demolition permit for the entire complex recently obtained by the owner.

    City Council learned of the plans Monday (Jan. 9) from Housing Programs Manager Allan Butler, who said that crews were already on site taking up the asphalt parking lot at the corner of Mayfield Road and Vandemar Street.

    Reached Tuesday, property owner Art Treuhaft said he’d driven by the complex the day before, but had “no idea where they are with the demolition.”

    Plans call for clearing the 1.5-to-2-acre site and putting it back on the market in February or March, Treuhaft said.

    The theater showed its last movie in 1996, although there were a succession of tenants since then, including a video rental shop and then briefly a liquor store.

    “Up to two or three years ago, it was fully occupied, with the exception of the auditorium,” Treuhaft said, adding that tenants have been vacating ever since.

    Councilwoman Mary Dunbar asked about architectural merits for the theater, opened in 1936, with the other storefronts being built in stages beginning in 1917.

    City preservation officials, who are working on a historic inventory of local commercial buildings, have toured the theater.

    While the Master Plan being drafted by the city with Cuyahoga County officials mentions continuing efforts to slow down the demolition process that has already been discussed for over a year.

  • January 4, 2017

    Anchorage, AK – Anchorage’s 4th Avenue Theatre gets its demolition permit, but owners say they won’t raze it

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    From ADN.com: A demolition permit was issued for the historic downtown 4th Avenue Theatre last month after Anchorage’s building board ruled that city officials, citing historic preservation questions, erred in delaying the permit.

    In a 2-1 vote at a December hearing, the Board of Building Regulation Examiners and Appeals agreed last month with the theater’s owners, Peach Investments LLC, which said the city didn’t have grounds to deny the permit.

    Described by the theater’s owners as needed for routine maintenance, the demolition permit immediately became tangled up in a city effort to preserve historic buildings.

    City officials argued that Peach was never actually denied a permit, but that both parties agreed on Oct. 17 to research whether the building carried a conservation easement that would block any future owner from tearing it down. City attorneys later said it appeared the $300,000 the city paid for a conservation easement in 1985 was eliminated by a 1991 foreclosure — a point raised in the written appeal by Peach Investments to say the permit should have been issued.

    Kristine Bunnell, the city’s historic building officer, said she never believed Peach Investments intended to demolish the building. But she said that all historic properties listed on official registers have now been flagged in the city’s permit management computer system so a consultation would be triggered whenever an owner applied to demolish or change it.

    In the meantime, the Anchorage Assembly is weighing whether to adopt a “demolition delay” ordinance that would provide for a community dialogue before a historic building is torn down. The ordinance was fast-tracked in response to Peach Investments seeking the demolition permit for the theater.