DALLAS -- The Dallas city council unanimously approved Wednesday the designation of the Lakewood Theater as a Dallas landmark.
The move clears the way for the owner to obtain a building permit and find a tenant for the 78-year old East Dallas icon.
"Let's get all the Lakewood residents using the Lakewood Theater again," owner Craig Kinney said.
Craig Kinney bought the theater, which had been used as a concert venue in recent years, in 2007. It has been unoccupied since January 2015.
When Kinney removed the theater seats as part of a state required asbestos abatement, preservations grew alarmed that the facade, including its neon tower, marquis and murals would be altered as well.
Kinney said Wednesday he purchased the building to save it, so he went along with the nearly 20-month process to receive the designation. During that time, Kinney could not lease the building to a tenant.
"It's cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars," Kinney said.
District 14 councilman Phillip Kingston called the collaboration to obtain the landmark designation as an example of Dallas working together to preserve architectural and cultural history.
“What we’ve not seen is even a peep of criticism about this idea," Kingston said.
He says the collaboration stands in direct contrast to the protracted and contentious effort for the future management of Fair Park, which could come up for a vote next week.
Longtime residents in Lakewood say the landmark designation is a great next step for the iconic structure.
"When people call and ask directions to places, sometimes I’m like, 'we’re right behind the Lakewood Theater.' And people know what that is. It’s something that people can identify with," said Lakewood neighbor Wendy Wright, who grew up going to the theater.
Kinney says he's ready for what's next too, though it is unlikely it will remain a theater on the inside.
"We'd love to get a theater," Kinney said. "There's no demand for a theater today."
Kinney says he's been approached by a few potential tenants that have expressed interest in opening a restaurant. There's no timetable, but Kinney and preservationists want a tenant in place soon.
"We don’t want to see these historic buildings be vacant and just sit there, we want them to have life and activity and people in there," said David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas.
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