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Alex Theatre renovations put on hold

Possibility of a sale makes operator reluctant to invest in the facility.

March 23, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Visitors tour the Alex Theatre in Glendale in 2009. Because the historic structure might be sold, officials have put off renovations.
Visitors tour the Alex Theatre in Glendale in 2009. Because… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Officials are putting off millions of dollars worth of improvements at the Alex Theatre because under a state mandate to dissolve local redevelopment agencies, Glendale may be forced to sell off the historic venue.

In their most recent quarterly report, Glendale Arts, which operates the theater, said they’re holding off on the major upgrades until they know whether earlier moves to try and transfer ownership of the venue from the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency to the city are deemed legal. If not, the venerable theater would be considered a redevelopment asset, and so could fall victim to the state-imposed dissolution process — or what city officials have called a “hostile takeover.”

In February, a state law shut down redevelopment activity throughout California, redirecting the higher property taxes they earned to the state to bridge a yawning budget gap. While Glendale’s redevelopment money was behind start-up projects, such as the Americana at Brand, Disney’s Creative Campus and affordable housing units, it also took over and revamped the city’s crown historic venue, the Alex Theatre.

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In a defensive move, officials shifted ownership of the historic landmark from the Redevelopment Agency to the city. But now that can be undone, and in a report to the City Council on Tuesday, city officials warned, “there are more questions and uncertainties than clear answers.”

Glendale’s Redevelopment Agency used to provide $415,000 a year for operation of the venue. In August, the City Council, acting in its dual role as the Redevelopment Agency, agreed to give the nonprofit $3.9 million — $2.8 million of it earmarked since 2007 — for new dressing and meeting rooms, a loading dock and a subterranean floor.

However, the planned backstage expansion and capital improvements are on hold until there’s more clarity about the possible sale. Officials expect that decision to come in June, when an oversight board consisting of school, county and city officials begins to supervise the redevelopment wind-down.

The state Department of Finance must approve the oversight board’s decisions.

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