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It was an ambitious idea that brought the community together. But a plan to buy and renovate the historic Huntridge Theater appears dead.
Two years ago, Michael Cornthwaite and Joey Vanas ignited the imaginations of Las Vegas residents when they announced plans to renovate the 71-year-old Huntridge Theater on Charleston Boulevard at Maryland Parkway.
They raised more than $200,000 through an Indie-GoGo campaign on the Internet. They received promises from architects, contractors and others to do work for free on the project once it finalized.
And residents turned out by the hundreds to repaint the building one weekend, giving bystanders a glimpse of what the building could look like if renovated.
In many ways, it was more than a renovation plan – it became a celebration of Las Vegas history.
But it’s not going to happen.
In an email to city urban development Director Bill Arent in August, Cornthwaite said plans were not going as planned.
“Regretfully, we have not made enough progress to get us to the finish line on this," Cornthwaite wrote.
Cornthwaite and Vanas, who formed Huntridge Revival LLC in their effort to save the building, had solicited the city Centennial Commission for a $1 million grant to help purchase the building.
However, Cornthwaite also wrote, “there is no way we are going to take the Centennial funds anytime soon.”
Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin has a lot of personal connections to the theater. He lives nearby and told the Las Vegas Sun he had his first kiss there.
Despite the news, Coffin is still optimistic.
"I'm sad but I'm not dejected because there is always tomorrow," he told KNPR's State of Nevada. "It's too bad but it's not over."
Coffin said that although the latest deal to restore the theater seems to be over the building is not going anywhere and he believes someone else will step forward.
"There is always somebody who is willing to take a risk to try to save this icon of Las Vegas," he said, although he was quick to point out he didn't know about anyone specifically.
Kathleen Kahr D'Esposito has lived near the theater for 25 years in the historic Huntridge neighborhood, which is situated next door.
The former president of the Huntridge Neighborhood Association is also disappointed and she is worried about the damage it could do to her neighborhood.
"It feels awful. It is a big deal," D'Esposito said. "There is nothing good that will come for our neighborhood or that area with an empty lot."
She had hoped a restored theater would be another piece in the puzzle to improve the neighborhood.
"I just see it reverting back to people camped out there, grocery carts there, people using the restroom there," she said. "It's just really, really a shame."
Dayvid Figler is the president of the John S. Park Neighborhood Association, which sits just blocks from the theater.
He supported the effort to restore the Huntridge, even giving money to the restoration effort, but Figler believes it might just come down to the reality of the building's age.
"If it's demolished, it's probably demolished because of its structure, structural integrity or lack thereof," he said. "It's going to take a lot more money than people necessarily think to bring it back to reasonable occupancy standards."
He would like to see something at that corner for the whole community because he sees it as an important part of the city has a whole.
"There is an aurora about that structure, that building, that space, that corner of Maryland Parkway and Charleston, which are two very important streets in the development of Las Vegas," he said. "I do believe it would integral for the vibrancy of the neighborhood for something good and important to be there."
Figler believes that while it is a troubled area it is also an up-and-coming area of the Las Vegas Valley.
Email from Cornthwaite:
Regretfully, we have not made enough progress to get us to the finish line on this. There is no way we are going to take the Centennial funds anytime soon. We haven't spoken with councilman Coffin or anyone else yet.
I hope the funds can be used for the project later as with the impending deadline of 2017, it will probably fall on the city to save this building. I know that you guys did your best to help us and spent lots of time on this, as did we.
You know that you can count on me to be honest with you, so I can't say that I'm not disappointed in the list of priorities at CLV that have been more important and wasted more money and time than the Huntridge ever could have. I don't need to list them for you guys...as you already know.
We appreciate the help over the last year and a half, and regret that we couldn't finish what we started. We don't know what our next step is, but figured you needed to know first.
City Councilman Bob Coffin, Ward 3; Kathleen Kahr D'Esposito, former president, Huntridge Neighborhood Association; Dayvid Figler, president, John S. Park Neighborhood Association