Alamo Drafthouse Courting Lakewood Theater, Parking Issues Plague Negotiations

Alamo Drafthouse is a likely tenant for the Lakewood Theater, but parking issues and rent price are sticking points. Photo: Mike Merrill

Alamo Drafthouse is a possible tenant for the historic Lakewood Theater in East Dallas, but parking issues and Alamo’s offered rent are proving problematic in negotiations. Photo: Mike Merrill

As we reported in January, the now-empty Lakewood Theater has an interested suitor, the Alamo Drafthouse, and negotiations are quite a ways along now.

Property co-owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham of Willingham-Rutledge talked to multiple restaurants and businesses that could fill the historic space in various incarnations, located at 1825 Abrams Pkwy. in East Dallas. It has stood empty since the last tenant’s lease ended at the end of January.

Things seemed most promising with Alamo Drafthouse, according to the Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate, but two issues are creating problems. And those issues could mean Lakewood Theater’s chances of staying a theater, and not getting broken up into multiple spaces, are at risk.

Built in 1938, Lakewood Theater is not protected by any official historic designation, and while the co-owners have verbalized their commitment to keeping the marquee intact, the interior is another story. If the Alamo Drafthouse doesn’t work out, “We have other options that may involve carving up the space. We just don’t know yet,” Kinney said back in November.  

But let’s get back to the current issues at hand.

Photo courtesy Joseph Martinez vis Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Joseph Martinez vis Creative Commons

First, there’s parking. As anyone who has tried to score a parking space near the Lakewood Theater on a busy night knows, it can take a lot of circling and waiting to find a spot. The folks at Alamo Drafthouse want an additional 150 parking spaces to remedy the situation. Where would those go? That’s the question. Probably a parking garage, but where?

The nearby Faulkner Tower has a parking lot located near Gaston Avenue and Paulus Avenue that could be a potential site for a garage, but talks aren’t proving fruitful, according to Kinney. Another possibility is the garage at Lakewood Towers, but it’s a three-to-four-minute walk from the theater, which might be too far, especially in a pair of Jimmy Choos.

Lakewood neighbors blocked an attempt by Willingham-Rutledge to build a 60-space, two-level parking garage next to the theater a few years ago. So a 150-space garage is unlikely to get their approval.

The second issue standing in the way of the Alamo-Lakewood courtship is money. What the Alamo Drafthouse is offering for rent is quite a bit below what Willingham-Rutledge would like. “We have talked to a number of theaters and theater uses, but Alamo was the most promising,” Kinney told the Advocate. “We’re always hopeful someone will come back to the table, but I’m not aware of another serious prospect at this point.”

The Alamo isn’t inexperienced with historic theaters, having restored the Ritz Theater in downtown Austin into a successful business. And they’re not ready to throw in the towel. As Alamo DFW COO Bill DiGaetano told the Advocate, their lower rent offer comes with the promise that the Alamo will do all improvements on their own dime, which can be quite an undertaking in a historic structure.

As for the parking, they’re still wanting to talk about options.

What would you like to see happen with the Lakewood Theater? Leave us a comment!

 

 

5 Comment

  • Seems like Lakewood residents need to decide what is more important – keeping the theater a theater, or allowing for a bigger parking structure. I’m not saying I would be a fan of having a large parking structure nearby either if I lived there, but no one has the right to complain about the theater getting split up if you’re also against the parking garage.

    • I believe it was some people from adjacent Junius Heights Historic District who were against the parking garage.

      Behind the theater on Paulus, there’s a block of wonderful Tudors and a house that reminds me of a mini Mansion on Turtle Creek. Two of those houses were torn down for the current parking lot. Across the street, nothing would be lost but it would be in the alley behind single family homes in the historic district.

      So, there are trade-offs.

      I don’t think when people opposed the garage they were thinking that we would lose the Lakewood Theater.

      With so many different property owners in the shopping center, I hope that our city council or some leader will step up to negotiate a commitment for parking that will save the theater.

  • James, my sentiments exactly. The Lakewood Theater is iconic and must remain intact inside as well as outside. It’s pathetic that it has not ever been zoned as an historic landmark because that is exactly what it is! The bozo’s that blocked the construction of a garage need to go crawling back to the builders and beg for it.

  • What about the parking lot behind Liberty Burger between the former Ali Baba and CVS? An adjoining parking garage (with entrance from Abrams Pkwy) could be built there as many stories as necessary. A different owner, yes. But if a deal could be negotiated it would allow better parking for the whole shopping center. A win-win for all three parties. I should also clarify that I don’t care for a parking garage any more than the next person. But business is business and Alamo won’t go forward without a viable solution. Let’s face it. People will not cross Gaston or Abrams to get to the movie theater. I would. But most people won’t. There are already major parking issues in that shopping center and a garage tucked neatly behind the buildings would help alleviate the problem. The parking lot in question doesn’t face anything but the country club across the street. If we want the Lakewood to remain a theater then we have to be willing to accept compromise.

    • That’s a great idea, however that center is owned by Lincoln Property, and I’m not sure what incentive they would have to build a parking garage used mainly for the Lakewood Theater, owned by someone else. This is why we need to get the property owners together so that maybe they can work out something. Mark Clayton? Philip Kingston? East Dallas Chamber?