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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