The Merced Theatre in what's now El Pueblo was Los Angeles's first theater when it opened in 1871, but its glory didn't last long: the theater scene moved over to the nearby Wood's Opera House pretty quickly and the Merced closed on January 1, 1877, "due to the Woods competition as well as a smallpox epidemic," according to Historic Los Angeles Theatres. The Merced was home to commercial businesses for the next century, and in 1984 it was leased to a developer who was supposed to restore the whole block; that never panned out and now the old theater's been sitting empty for 30 years. But lately El Pueblo's making a comeback with a gamechanging mixed-use development on the way and a planned city overhaul of many of the historic buildings, including the Merced, reports the Downtown News. The theater will be fixed up and turned into the home of Channel 35, the sometimes-actually-kinda-exciting City Council/government meeting station (which is moving from a leased building in Little Tokyo). It'll also be open to school or nonprofits for video work.
The major upgrades will be for stuff like earthquake safety, plumbing, and electrical infrastructure, but the building will also be outfitted with a small performance venue on the first floor (for shows or meetings of local groups, and maybe even some "cultural programming" from the LA Opera), a studio with space for a 70-person live audience, and of course offices. The Masonic Lodge next door will also be refurbished and used for extra office space and equipment.
Roto Architects is handling design; the design phase should last about a year, construction should take two, and the city's hoping to open the new station in 2017.
· Long Vacant Merced Theater Gets New Life [DN]
· El Pueblo Getting Big Upgrades: New Museum, Restored Theater [Curbed LA]