It seems like it won’t be long before new life gets breathed into the Lakewood Theater, yesterday the city Plan Commission unanimously approved plans that would officially declare it a protected landmark. All that’s left is the City Council’s seal of approval, which could come as early as August when it reconvenes after summer break.
What would Landmark status mean for the long-vacant theater? The original tower that defines the skyline in Lakewood would be forever protected, as would the historic murals painted by artist Perry Nichols, a 1929 Woodrow Wilson grad and a member of the famed “Dallas Nine.” But the building itself could see any number of changes.
Owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham, who purchased the circa 1938 structure in 2007, have found an ally in Hollywood-Santa Monica neighbor and preservation architect Norman Alston, who is keeping an eye on the history while also helping to bring business into the vacant halls. Alston discovered that the Lakewood’s outer walls perfectly matched the South Dallas Forest Theater, built by the same company in 1948, which was later expanded to include additional retail space.
“When did the Lakewood Theater open? ’38? Maybe a war got in the way,” Alston speculates, adding that the find opens the door for future expansion at the Lakewood.
The Lakewood’s owners we’re initially opposed to landmark status for fear it would restrict their ability to develop the theater. But it was clear that neighbors wanted the space protected, shown in a petition signed by more than 7,000.
Kinney has previously said he plans to carve out spaces in the theater, which could be operated by restaurants or other businesses. And, because providing parking was not a requirement for theaters in the 1930s, city staff determined additional parking would not be needed.
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