When work crews broke ground on Huntridge Theater in 1944, there were high hopes for the venue.
It would set a new standard of “modern beauty” and have such features as a spacious lobby, air-conditioning and a “powder room for the women patrons,” said a report at the time.
Today, the Las Vegas venue is closed and rundown, with holes in the walls and ceilings, a busted marquee, bird feathers strewn across the stage and, somewhat regularly, homeless people outside.
A once-popular entertainment venue, the Huntridge has been shuttered and in disrepair for some time, and multiple revival plans have come and gone over the years. In the latest attempt to pump life into the historic structure, a local developer is looking to buy and rehab the Huntridge — and a city official said it’s the “best chance we’ve ever had” to get the theater open.
The Las Vegas City Council is scheduled to consider plans Nov. 6 to facilitate a deal for Dapper Companies founder J Dapper to buy the Huntridge, at the southeast corner of Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway, for $4 million. City Attorney Brad Jerbic told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he hopes Dapper can close the deal within six months.
According to a recent court filing, Dapper plans to have a residential component at the property, rehabilitate the theater and deal with potential operators of the historic venue.
Dapper and seller Eli Mizrachi, whose family owns the property, could not be reached for comment.
‘It can be almost anything’
There’s always a chance the deal can fall through. But Jerbic, who has the keys to the building and gave the Review-Journal a tour Thursday, said this is the “absolute best chance we’ve ever had so far to get the Huntridge up and running again.”
Nevada Preservation Foundation Executive Director Heidi Swank, an Assemblywoman who co-sponsored a bill in 2017 for the state to buy the theater, said the Huntridge can be saved, as there are other buildings in worse shape that can be fixed.
“It can be almost anything,” she said, adding that if “anyone can make this work, it’s probably J Dapper.”
The Huntridge needs an estimated $6 million in renovations, Jerbic said. As seen on the tour, pockmarked walls have broken plaster; ceilings and walls have hole punctures, some of them gaping; and rows of gray, plastic chairs fill much of the auditorium floor, facing a stage covered with feathers, trash, filing cabinets and other items.
Jerbic also said homeless people show up outside “fairly regularly.”
The World War II-era venue is on the national and state registers of historic places. According to news reports, it showed movies for decades and was a top concert venue by the 1990s, with acts such as Sheryl Crow, Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys and local product The Killers.
The Mizrachi family acquired the theater in 2002 and closed it for renovations in 2004. But amid escalating construction costs, Eli Mizrachi said the next year that he and the building were in “limbo.”
In 2007, a bill in the Nevada Assembly proposed spending $8.5 million to buy and restore the Huntridge as a cultural and performing arts center; by 2008, Eli Mizrachi was discussing plans to make it an office and retail complex; and in 2013, three downtown businessmen banded together to buy and renovate the theater.
Along the way, the state of Nevada sued Eli Mizrachi in 2014, claiming his group had breached grant provisions by failing to pay for maintenance work and by keeping the theater closed for years.
The grants were initially given to prior owners, and Mizrachi’s group claimed the lawsuit was “an attempt to extort” more than $1 million before funding covenants expired and the building was sold.
They settled the case in 2016, but the state filed court papers in February alleging the owners had let the theater “fall further” into disrepair.
Human waste, rotting food and other debris were seen outside on numerous visits; security fencing and gates were damaged, suggesting people tried to force their way in; and the ceiling in the bathrooms had been removed but not replaced, according to the state.
The city of Las Vegas filed court papers Oct. 24 to intervene in the case, which, according to Jerbic, needs to be resolved before Dapper closes the purchase.