An equity firm out of Florida has a purchase agreement to buy the former Suburban World Theater (historic Granada Theater) and do a major restoration while converting the space into a single-tenant, 6,000 square foot retail space. To happen, the City will need to approve of the plans, the company must purchase the building, and a tenant must sign a lease.
The firm, Elion, is working with local architect DJR Architecture, who sounds like was the one who brought Elion to the deal. Dean Dovolis, the architect behind the project and the presenter at the neighborhood meetings I attended, spoke passionately about his vision to restore the theater’s unique interior and exterior architecture that is one of the few intact examples in the Twin Cities.
Dovolis’ vision would restore the exterior facade by bringing in architectural lighting, adding back the glass that once existed on the far sides of the facade where today are sign boards, repairing the wrought iron grills above the marquee and adding lighting, restoring the existing 1950s-era marquee (though removing the “Suburban World” from the top), and replacing the doors.
The interior would see all of the 1999 additions get removed, such as the kitchen that was placed in part of the lobby and all of the tiered seating inside. The 1999 renovation hopefully only covered up original components and didn’t demolish them, Dovolis said. The original theater’s “sunken living room” in the lobby would likely be brought back as a display area, as well as the high ceilings in the lobby.
Inside the theater, a flat floor would be constructed on top of the existing, to remain, pitched floor. The new floor would be held off the existing walls by 4 feet to allow a walkway around the theater so that the existing, decorative walls can remain intact. The new raised floor would have a glass railing lining it so that building visitors/shoppers could take in the walls. The upper, steep seating area would be leveled out with a raised floor as well.
The star-studded sky-like ceiling would be repaired, as water damaged the plaster in several areas. The lights apparently still work and will be retained. Dovolis also believes he has found the cloud machine (a projector that had swirling clouds projecting onto the ceiling) and hopes to get that working again.
The new retail floor would be self-contained, having all of its heating/cooling, electrical, and data needs serviced from below. The lighting for the space would need to rise from that floor, as to avoid impacting the walls or ceiling. This could be thought of like lamp posts, as a concept.
So who is this retailer you wonder?
Good question. Apparently there is not a lease signed but three retailers were indicated as a likely tenant. Words used to describe the possible tenant include:
– “high end”
– “home furnishing”
Only one tenant would occupy the space. The projection room and basement would be back of house and the main floor would be for sales. The tenant would get their name on the marquee.
The original decorative moldings and such around the screen were apparently cut out at some point to accommodate a larger screen in the movie theater, presumably sometime around or after the 1950s renovation. Dovolis hopes to rebuild it like the original. The tenant could then use that screen area for a logo, a large screen displaying product/related videos, or displays.
The building is historic at the city-level, meaning that the city must approve of alterations made to the them. The plan goes before the Heritage Preservation Commission on July 24th. If no one appeals their decision within 10 days, they could hypothetically pull a building permit.
But they’ll still need to purchase the property, sign a lease, and presumably finalize construction plans and finalize any financing documents before proceeding. Dovolis hinted though, that if everything went really well, you may step foot in the restored space by Christmas 2013.
But why not a theater?
When asked why not some sort of theater or entertainment use, given that the building was constructed for that purpose, Dovolis responded that it was politically not viable, referencing concerns of it operating like a club. However, the restoration will keep the building’s future secure and the raised floor approach would allow for a theater or other entertainment use to potentially come back if the retailer ever pulled out of the building, Dovolis confirmed.
Outside of the meeting, multiple community members have stated they would love to see a Alamo Drafthouse concept in the space. Perhaps a future like that, or a smaller music venue could still be in its cards.