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The future of the Fairfax Theater will likely be decided on June 3 when the city’s Office of Historic Resources holds a hearing on whether to preserve the theatre or to allow the owner to move forward with plans to turn the building into a condominium complex.
The Friends of Fairfax Theatre, a group that includes local residents and members of several preservation groups, has filed an application asking that the city declare the theatre a cultural historic monument. The group contends that the theatre, which is located near the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue and was built in 1929, is of historic value because it is one of the only old-time movie houses remaining in the neighborhood. The group also contends that the site is important because of its ties to the local Jewish community, which used to gather at the Fairfax Theatre in the 1930s and ‘40s to learn about developments in World War II. The theatre was also used for symphony performances during its early days.
“We believe we have a very credible application,” said John Thomas, president of the Art Deco Society, members of the Friends of the Fairfax Theatre. “We believe it should be preserved, both as a cultural resource and a historic resource, and because of what it has meant to the community.”
The developer, Alex Gorby, wants to build 71 condominiums over ground-floor retail space. Plans call for the theatre’s façade to be preserved, but the rest of the theatre and some adjacent shops will be demolished. An environmental impact study on the project is currently being compiled. A decision by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission to designate the theatre as a cultural historic resource would force the developer to change plans for the condominium complex.
Members of the commission toured the Fairfax Theatre on May 6 to see conditions of the building first-hand. The theatre has been closed since January when heavy rains caused a partial ceiling collapse. The theatre had been divided into a triplex in the 1980s, and screened mostly independent films until its closure. Regency Theatres, the company that operated the Fairfax Theatre, has indicated it will not reopen the theatre.
Ken Bernstein, manager of the Office of Historic Resources, said a staff report on the theatre is currently being compiled that will guide the commission in their decision. The commission will take into consideration how much of the original interior and exterior features still exist. The staff report will be available on May 24, and is available by calling the Office of Historic Resources at (213)978-1200. The staff report will also be available online as a link to the commission’s agenda, which will be posted on either May 27 or 28, Bernstein said.
The Cultural Heritage Commission meeting will be held on Thursday, June 3 at 10:00am in Room 1010 at Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St. Bernstein added that public comments are still welcome and will be taken into consideration by the commission. People can either fax comments to (213)978-0017, or can submit them online by visiting www.preservation.lacity.org and clicking on “contact us”.
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