Designed by prolific theater architect B. Marcus Priteca, the beautiful old Warner Huntington Park theater, closed since the 1990s, is a great candidate for a restoration and a reuse in some kind of theater-y capacity, according to preservationists, but right now it has to dodge a looming retail conversion. Just this week, the Huntington Park Historic Preservation Commission voted to approve a resolution that would recommend the Planning Commission allow a dramatic conversion to turn the theater into a more retail-friendly space—step one would involve ripping out seats and walls.
The theater went up for rent this year, with a LoopNet ad including renderings showing a retail conversion of the space, but the ad was taken down shortly after Curbed posted about it last month.
The agenda for the Preservation Commission meeting where the resolution was discussed doesn't get specific about the property owners' conversion plan; it refers to the changes as "adaptive reuse." (Official minutes for the meeting have not been posted.) But a release from the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, which attended the commission meeting this past Tuesday, says that the plan presented by the Warner HP's owners would convert the space for retail use by flattening out the now-sloped floor inside the theater and removing all the original seating. It would also take out the front section of the original balcony, the backstage rigging (that would have controlled backdrops and curtains in the old theater), and sections of the original walls between the lobby and the theater.
Restoration of the building's exterior (which is landmarked, though the interior is not) would also be part of the renovation package; after all those changes, it could end up being the only reminder that this place ever was a theater. LAHTF notes that no specific retail tenant was named at the meeting, so it's not clear if there even is one at this stage.
A Huntington Park Planning Department staffer confirmed over the phone that the resolution was passed by the Historic Preservation Commission, and that the Planning Department is expected to review the matter sometime at the end of January.