The iconic Lakewood Theater in East Dallas is officially a protected historic landmark after action by the Dallas City Council Wednesday.
Neighbors pushed for the action over the past year with support from the building owners.
But co-owner Craig Kinney said the year-long process was twice what was promised and delays cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I’d like to get it leased and get it used, and have the Lakewood residents using the Lakewood Theater again,” Kinney said.
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Neighbors worried demolition was starting last year when they saw old seats removed and workers inside the 1938 structure.
Katherine Seale, the leader of the Dallas Landmark Commission, started the historic protection process without the owner’s request.
“Of course, at that time, we didn’t know about how the owner felt about the building,” said Seale. “Literally thousands of people in East Dallas came together and said 'this is what matters, this is a beacon.'”
The owners agreed to building should be protected and they received praise from city council Members Wednesday.
Councilman Philip Kingston said the Lakewood Theater in many ways is the soul of East Dallas.
“We should offer sincere thanks to the owners of the building who did not have to go along with this,” Kingston said. “The key to preserving Lakewood Theater is long term, viable tenants in the historic structure.”
Kinney said it is unlikely the building will be a theater again, but there are several restaurant tenants interested in leasing portions of the theater space. That will require another round of city review.
“It is allowed under the designation to divide the property. Now we have specific things we have to do when we do that. It’s all subject to Landmark Commission saying it’s appropriate,” Kinney said.
Neighbors Wednesday said they are anxious to see the Lakewood Theater building used again.
“I would love for it to stay exactly like it is. It looks great. And it’s old. It brings texture to the community,” said Lakewood worker Sonya Burkins.
Contractor Mike Hernandez works and lives nearby.
“I think it’s something that distinguishes this part of town from any other part of town,” Hernandez said. “If you go to all these suburbia, little pop up deals, they all look the same. This makes us a little different from everybody else.”
Kinney said work last year was environmental remediation required by the state. Renovation permits could not be obtained until after Wednesday’s city council approval. Now, Kinney said talks with potential tenants will move forward to refine renovation plans.