The Suburban World Theater reborn

Featured, Hennepin-Lake, Real Estate — By on July 13, 2013 10:39 pm

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.

A rendering of what the restored Suburban World Theater would look like

A rendering of what the restored Suburban World Theater would look like

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.

The proposed floor plan of the Suburban World Theater restoration. The grey area is a raised floor. The curved section running outside of it is a walkway that follows the existing, pitched floor.

The proposed floor plan of the Suburban World Theater restoration. The grey area is a raised floor. The curved section running outside of it is a walkway that follows the existing, pitched floor.

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.

An elevation of the raised floor within the existing Suburban World Theater in Uptown

An elevation of the raised floor within the existing Suburban World Theater in Uptown

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”
– “jewelery”
– “clothing”

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.

A close up of the new entry to the Suburban World Theater. Side windows would be brought back where currently there are display boards.

A close up of the new entry to the Suburban World Theater. Side windows would be brought back where currently there are display boards.

Approvals needed
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.

Project Team
Architect: DJR Architecture
General Contractor: Kraus-Anderson
Developer/Owner: Elion Capital

Thatcher Imboden

How cities work and change, how they are the product of their inhabitants and outside forces, and the resulting livability keep me thinking and dreaming about the future. I work in transit oriented development and have a background in urban real estate development. I am Past President of an Uptown business organization, grew up in Uptown, was on an Uptown neighborhood association Board, and am an Uptown and Lyn-Lake historian.

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  1. ECtransplant says:

    Please not another furniture store

  2. Andrew says:

    Boring as another home furnishing store might be, I think it would be great if Uptown were to continue evolving into a destination for that type of shopping. I just bought a new rug – because my life is incredibly exciting – and kind of hated that I had to drive out to Southdale to pick one out.

  3. SH says:

    I would love to see uptown become more of a design center area with an addition of a restoration hardware or pottery barn or create and barrel. We already have some great shops with CB2, Jonathan Adler, roam, design within reach, and flor. With an addition of another I am sure all these stores would see a lift in traffic.

    If it is a clothing store I am hoping for a jcrew or banana republic. We need some bigger brand anchors to help with traffic and making the area a shopping destination. Plus the area demographics would serve these brands well. Young, well to do corporate hippies.

  4. ScottSimon says:

    I don’t think you appreciate how rare it is to find a building with a high ceiling, tiered seating and no intrusions of sightlines. To find a room with simply no pole in the middle of it is a remarkable thing. That alone is why Granada Theater should stay an entertainment venue at all costs. Regrettably the guy who owned it previously was not playing with a full deck and he ruined it for the future with the city. When I travel to Montreal and see all the similar-sized theater and club venues and the way that town is alive and cookin’ all summer long with music and performance and nightlife and sidewalk cafes and one festival on top of another – – – I keep thinking that Minneapolis could be the same thing in the States. But we need forward thinking people and great venues like Surburban World/Granada in URBAN areas. We need to fight to keep and maintain them because you don’t realize how rare and valuable they are. Same with Parkway and Riverview and Uptown and Theater in the Round and Women’s Club and all the other similar sized theaters.

  5. Madeline Douglass says:

    HPC docs have been published. No comments received
    from ECCO or CARAG neighborhood associations or citizens. Comments are usually accepted until the
    end of the business day on the Monday before the hearing.

  6. Madeline Douglass says:

    Anyone attend the Heritage Preservation Commission hearing? No decision was made…they’ve “continued” their consideration of the plan for the theater to their August 6th hearing.

    • Thatcher Imboden says:

      No, but I was hoping too (was out sick). I agree with most, if not all, of the staff recommendations. The Southwest Journal has an article on some of the discussion.

  7. Josh says:

    An Alamo Drafthouse would be perfect for Minneapolis but we already have three great theaters in this neighborhood. I don’t understand the political problems with this place becoming a music venue. Uptown is still hurting from the loss of the Uptown bar. With all the new housing going up in that area, a music venue seems like a no-brainer.

  8. Adam says:

    Someone mentioned in another conversation about this how perhaps the venue could become a non-profit movie theater like The Hollywood in Portland, OR. (here’s the website: And what about the MSP Film Society? As of now they run out of a small office at St Anthony & Main, and only have one auditorium shared by the movie theater there… Why not expand to have their own location?

  9. Madeline Douglass says:

    Any news to report? How is this project going?

  10. Madeline Douglass says:

    Looks like Elion Captial decided not to buy the theater after all. Hoping a group of investors could acquire this, negotiate some changes regarding the 60/40 rule and turn this into a venue for LIVE performance. Completely restored!!!

  11. Chriz says:

    this needs to be a music venue! how is anything else being considered, we already have enough yuppie crap. they are ruining the city like the plague. a little balance would be nice. and who cares whatever “politically viable” means, sticks in the mud can get a life and quit ruining our urban city

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