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First Look at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater Mixed-User

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Developers and the city are still going back and forth over plans to build a five-story mixed-use development on the site of the long-running Bob Baker Marionette Theater, with the odd twist that the developers are for preservation, while the Cultural Heritage Commission seems "eh" about the idea. Meanwhile: we have renderings of what the project incorporating the nondescript 1953 building would look like (the puppet theater has been there since 1961). As it stands now, the project would put just about 100 apartments over the theater structure and new commercial space, moving the puppets out but reusing the old building as a lobby for the residences. It's still not clear, though, whether the building (which the city already named a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2009) is worth saving without the puppets, reports the Downtown News.

Developer Eli Melech and architects Albert Group Architects have been working for about eight months on the project and had hoped to save the theater, but the president of the city's Cultural Heritage Commission questions the value of "architectural gymnastics" to save something that, without the theater actively inside, is just not all that important. He suggests instead having "a public puppeteering use" inside the new development, putting an endowment toward the future of the theater (which has long had money troubles); other ideas from the architects included creating a pocket park or amphitheater in the project that would somehow nod toward the Bob Baker legacy.

The developer says he's been asked by the city to come up with estimates for building the apartment complex with and without preservation of the theater, and to see if the money saved by the less expensive option could be used to benefit the theater through either an endowment or the establishment of a nonprofit. Construction won't begin until the end of 2015 at the earliest. Meanwhile, the theater's 18-month lease ends in April; after that, it will pay month-to-month rent. According to a puppeteer working at Bob Baker, it's not been decided yet what will happen to the theater in the future, but he said it has no plans to move.


· Legendary Puppet Theater Could Close for Apartments [LADN]
· Marionette Square [Albert Group]
· Bob Baker Puppets Moving Out, Apartments Could Be Moving In [Curbed LA]
· Bob Baker Marionette Theater [Curbed LA]