Lakewood Theater-Alamo Drafthouse deal still in a parking jam

Good news: It’s not a money issue. The owners of Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse and the owners of the Lakewood Theater have come to a rent agreement, says Craig Kinney, the historic theater‘s co-owner. But that was never (really) the problem.

“If someone came to me right now with a $5 billion check and said, ‘I want to save the Lakewood Theater,’ I’d said, ‘Great, we still need parking,’ ” Alamo DFW COO Bill DiGaetano told us before the rent agreement was reached. “It’s one thing to renovate the building. It’s another thing to have a viable business for 15 years.”

Both parties want a long-term, 15-year lease, which means they need a long-term parking plan, DiGaetano says, adding that parking is the responsibility of the owner, not the tenant. Kinney says the owners are in talks with neighboring properties about renting parking spaces, and that includes the parking garage at Oram and Alderson used by tenants of Lakewood Towers, more commonly known as the Wells Fargo Bank building. Jessie Ray, operations manager for Houston-based Highlands Resources, which owns the towers and the garage, says not many of its tenants use the garage at night and on weekends when Alamo would most need it.

“We’re open to it,” is all she would say of allowing the theater to lease the garage.

The problem, DiGaetano says, is that parking leases typically allow owners the right to give 30-60 days notice to cancel the lease.

“We can’t do that with a 15-year lease,” he says. And relying on people to walk or ride bicycles to the theater won’t work, either, he says. “We want to cater to both Lakewood and other neighborhoods. It is walkable if you’re near the theater, but if you’re a few blocks away, there’s some pretty major intersections you’re crossing.”

Alamo usually won’t sign a theater deal unless it has 300 parking spaces on the same property, as it does for the 8-screen theater that should open next year in the Cedars near downtown Dallas. Alamo likely would convert the one-screen Lakewood Theater into three screens, so not as much parking is needed. Still, DiGaetano says, “a theater’s a far different animal than a small restaurant,” and having 150 parking spaces available to the theater appears to be non-negotiable for Alamo.

When we checked with Kinney over the weekend, he said he is “still attempting to secure parking.” Kinney has expressed doubt many times, however, that he will be able to negotiate a long-term agreement with another nearby owner.

“Obviously, what Lakewood really needs is additional permanent parking,” Kinney says.

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  • Colin Carroll

    Hopefully they are turning over all stones here as this would be a great addition to the neighborhood while preserving much of the theater. I wonder if the lot on the 700 block of Paulus has been discussed? Double-parked for valet only you could probably get at least 50 cars in there.

  • mdmost

    So I’m supposed to walk or ride my bike from Lochwood to the Alamo if I want to see a movie?

    The neighborhood needs to decide if they’d rather have a movie theater with a parking garage there or a bunch of rotating restaurants and no parking garage. If you choose the latter, say goodbye to ever seeing a movie at Lakewood.

  • Robert Kent

    I know that I’m going to be in the minority here, but hear me out… If we are serious as a city about being more walkable, then we have to stop developing in a way that prioritizes the automobile over everything else. In this instance, Alamo says that the nearby intersections are too busy to be walkable. So the answer is to add more parking, and thus more automobile traffic, thus making the area even less walkable? It’s just a cycle that feeds itself. The more we build automobile infrastructure, the less walkable an area becomes. What do you think?

  • leia

    Renting parking spots from those two buildings may be the answer for Alamo, but I would like to hear what the other businesses in the shopping center have to say about that, considering the parking there is already atrocious in the evenings. People may park a block or two away to go to the theater, but not sure how they would feel about walking that far to grab a bite at Cock N Bull, Liberty Burger, etc. Not building an adjacent garage could be a disaster for the other tenants!

  • materlady

    I drove by the old Faulkner Tower again which has a big sign reading Lakewood Tower and the Wells Fargo Bank still has a big sign showing Wells Fargo Bank. Still confused. But doesn’t really matter I guess. As to building a parking garage where the back entrances are between the old Ali Baba and CVS, that is already one mess just getting in and out off of the Abrams By-Pass. Don’t know what the solution is to the parking problems. Skillman/Live Oak shopping center has the same problem.

  • Scott

    The entire shopping center needs more parking. The two landlords should get together and negotiate to build a parking garage on the lot between the former Ali Baba and CVS. This lot is on the backside of the shopping center, easily accessible from Abrams Parkway and it faces the Lakewood Country Club parking garage. The rear entrances of the stores could open into the garage and patrons could access the theater via the breezeway next to Liberty Burger. Viola! Problem solved.

  • I believe Faulkner Tower has been renamed Gaston Tower or Lake Tower. The Wells Fargo building was renamed and rebranded Lakewood Towers a few years ago under new ownership.

  • materlady

    When did the Wells Fargo building become Lakewood Towers? There is a sign on the old Faulkner Tower bldg. saying Lakewood Towers. Is that what you are referring to?