It was a packed house today at Dallas City Hall as the Landmark Commission opened the floor to discuss designating the Lakewood Theater as a historic landmark.
Just months ago, Lakewood Theater owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham courted Alamo Drafthouse as a tenant for the property, but when problems over parking kept the pair from sealing the deal, Kinney and Willingham proposed dividing up the interior into restaurant and retail space. They tried to assure Lakewood residents that the exterior of the theater would remain unchanged, but all bets were off after blue and red balcony seats started filling up a dumpster outside the building. To some, this was a shot over the bow.
In most cases, the city of Dallas Landmark Commission doesn’t start work to certify a building unless the property owner requests it. However, thousands signed petitions and rallied supporters to preserve the hand-painted murals and Art Deco interiors of the theater and the truly iconic neon spire and marquee.
The commission heard from all manner of Lakewood Theater supporters, as well as the property owner, at the 1 p.m. hearing. Even Blazing Saddles star Burton Gilliam came to 1500 Marilla to speak for the theater. When the final vote was tallied, the landmark commission unanimously agreed to start the process of designating the beloved theater as an official City of Dallas landmark. This means that work on the theater is effectively shut down, and nothing inside or outside can be changed without the approval of the commission.
To say that supporters of the Lakewood Theater were overjoyed would be accurate. They came out in droves, clad in their “Save the Lakewood Theater!” T-shirts, clapping and cheering when the commission’s vote came down.
— Ken Kalthoff (@KenKalthoffNBC5) September 8, 2015
This is a unique situation in business-friendly Dallas, one where the voice of the neighborhood stymies the plans of a property owner. What are your thoughts on the vote?