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State, Huntridge Theater Owner Settling Suit Over Historic Venue

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Melissa Clary

The state of Nevada and the owner of the Huntridge Theater are settling a lawsuit that complicated efforts to restore the east Charleston Boulevard landmark.

In 2014, the state of Nevada sued Huntridge owner Eli Mizrachi, contending he failed to protect the building, a condition that came with his purchase of the state-designated historic site.

The proposed settlement halves $750,000 sought by the state and gives Mizrachi the opportunity to avoid any payment if he makes improvements to the building and makes it a usable building where events are held several times a year.

The deal also extends for 12 years restrictions on what he can do with the property.

The state Commission on Cultural Centers and Historic Preservation votes on the matter this week.

Heidi Swank is a Nevada assemblywoman and the CEO of the Nevada Preservation Foundation. She told KNPR's State of Nevada that she thinks it's a good compromise.

"I think that's really the big thing that the community and the state wants to see is to not have this important building to our community just sitting there empty in disrepair not functioning," she said, "This I think it provides both a carrot and a stick to get us where we want to be with that building."

The Huntridge opened in 1944 as a glittering example of streamline modern architecture at the eastern outskirts of a town of 15,000.

Support comes from

It prospered in the post-war boom, but its fortunes faded as Las Vegas grew far beyond the Huntridge neighborhood off East Charleston Boulevard.

After a reinvention as a concert hall, the Huntridge closed in 2004, recognized as a historic site but with few financial prospects. The theater has been a subject of several restoration efforts since then.

Now that the theater is essentially saved from possibility of destruction for a few more years at least, the question for many people is what will happen to it.

Swank believes people have to open to possibilities. 

"I think we need to be very open in our thoughts," she said, "It's a large building and there is a lot of space in there. And there's been a lot of changes on the interior that may preclude some of the uses that it's been before."

Daniel Roberts agreed with Swank. He is the president of the Huntridge Foundation. The foundation is working to preserve and re-purpose the building, but as of yet it has no legal right to do anything.

Roberts believes those who want to preserve and restore the old theater need to be "pragmatic."

"Truthfully, we can put a beautiful theater in there and if no one goes then that theater is not going to be beautiful for very long," he said.

He said bringing back the theater "takes a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money." 

Several years ago, a crowd funding effort was launched to raise money to renovate the theater. Thousands of dollars were raised from small and large donations, but besides a coat of paint, the project never got off the ground.

Roberts contributed to the effort and so did Swank. 

But Roberts said it is that effort that sometimes hurts the current push to redevelop the theater. 

"The most disappointing thing about that is people are even more burnt out on the Huntridge now," he said, "Now, you go to talk to be people and they go, 'Man, didn't we already save? How long are you going to be waving that flag?'"

Officials with the attorney general’s office declined to comment on the settlement until it is finalized. Calls to Mizrachi and his attorney were not returned.

Guests

Heidi Swank, assemblywoman and CEO, the Nevada Preservation Foundation; Daniel Roberts, president, The Huntridge Foundation

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