Fort Worth

Historic Fort Worth theater to be replaced by health clinic

Final decision to be made Saturday by Mercy Clinic Board of Directors

NBC Universal, Inc.

In Fort Worth, there is a battle to save a historic theater. Community members are fighting the potential demolition of the Berry Theatre in South Fort Worth’s Hemphill neighborhood.

The theater was built in the 1930s and later played an important part in the city’s Latino culture. Families would fill the seats of Berry Theatre to watch Spanish-language films. However, the building has been abandoned for more than 30 years.

The building now belongs to the medical nonprofit organization, Mercy Clinic, which provides free health care to hundreds of patients in the 76110 and 76104 zip codes.

“We gained the theater through a donation by a wonderful volunteer back in 2021,” Aly Leyman said. Leyman is the executive director of the nonprofit. “We own the four lots to the north of the building of the theater.”

It was back in 2018 that the clinic began plans for expansion. However, the theater was not always part of that expansion plan.

“The original plans were drawn up back in 2018. We did not own the theater. So, you can see in some of our renderings that the theater, just is like, right next to the clinic building,” Leyman said. “Right now, we have a plan to go from a three-clinic, three-room clinic to a ten-room clinic, and it would happen on that property.”

The plan now includes to demolish the historic building which has caused concern among some of the Hemphill community.

“Redo it. Bring something back fun,” Leslie Staap said. Staap is a homeowner that lives a few blocks from the theater. “The college isn't far. They could come and see an old-fashioned movie or documentary.”

The nonprofit has met with neighbors to explore other options and consider costs.

“Looking at what it would cost to restore it or what it would cost to even turn it into storage or even turn it into a medical facility, for us, the cost is significantly higher than a brand new clinic would be,” Leyman said. “Right now, we are entertaining if someone wants to purchase the theater, we're open to that.”

However, it is a race against the clock as those plans would have to be submitted to its board of directors by Friday.

“The Mercy Clinic Board of Directors will meet on Saturday and decide what to do next,” Leyman said. “We have known that Mercy Clinic cannot expand without the support of the surrounding community.”

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