Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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Looking in on: City Hall:

State finances may stunt effort to save Huntridge Theatre

Image

Sun File Photo

Eli Mizrachi stands in front of the Huntridge Theatre, which he bought in 2002. He wants to pay back grants made to the theater in the ’90s so he can demolish it.

Historic preservationists, stagehands and some state lawmakers are trying to come up with ways — think “money” — to save the Huntridge Theatre after a Las Vegas Sun story about its potential demolition ran last week.

Theater owner Eli Mizrachi wants the state Cultural Affairs Commission to let him pay back about $1.6 million in preservation grants made to the theater in the 1990s. Without that payback, Mizrachi would not be able to demolish the building until 2017. The commission will meet in Carson City on March 20 and 21.

Mizrachi purchased the building on three acres at the corner of Maryland Parkway and East Charleston Boulevard for a paltry $925,000 in January 2002. In spring 2007, state Assemblymen James Ohrenschall and Richard “Tick” Segerblom sponsored legislation to save the 64-year-old building by purchasing it for $8.5 million.

With state coffers ebbing, Ohrenschall said Friday he wasn’t sure whether he would be able or willing to reintroduce the legislation in the 2009 session.

“But I still think it has a lot of potential as a performing arts center, a restaurant — just look at the places downtown that are doing well,” he said, referring specifically to bars on the formerly rundown section of Fremont Street that the city has cleaned up.

B.J. Thomas — not the “Hooked on a Feeling” rock crooner but a member of the International Organization of Theater Stage Employees Local 720 — says the union has talked about using the theater as a training facility. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, meanwhile, hopes that at least the fluted tower of the theater could be preserved if the owner wins the right to do with it as he pleases.

“The city is the only place in the valley that preserves our history, and I hope that the very least we can do is make sure the Huntridge presence is preserved,” he said. “We don’t have the money, unfortunately, as a city to restore it to its former glory. But we are interested in making sure we do everything we can to keep its presence felt.”

•••

Having heard the grief-stricken sentiments of classmates and teachers at a service for slain 15-year-old Christopher Privett, a Palo Verde High School freshman, Goodman is having his staff investigate legislation to punish the people who provide guns to criminals.

“I thought how senseless and wasteful his life would be if it ended on the note we were memorializing,” Goodman said at his Thursday news conference. “Maybe as mayor, I have the bully pulpit to do something about that.”

His staff is looking into drafting legislation that would be taken to the Nevada Legislature for hearings. It would make someone who provides a weapon to a juvenile offender liable for the crime the juvenile commits.

Goodman said he will “urge the Legislature to pass a law ... where the person giving the gun is charged with the same crime and penalized accordingly.

“Something has to be done about these school shootings, and I can’t think of anything better than to let people know that if they’re giving guns to kids, they are going to be severely punished for it.”

•••

Mayor Goodman — editorial writer?

It appears the mayor now has to consider himself part of the media, a group he takes pleasure in vilifying as some lower rung of humanity.

Goodman has won an award for a column he wrote for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

His opinion piece about Yucca Mountain, “Nuke Dump Is Dead?” was published April 15. The column won the Bronze Quill Award from the International Association of Business Communicators. Las Vegas also won a Bronze Quill, the group’s highest award, for its public outreach work related to the “Speak up on Yucca Mountain” information campaign designed to generate public interest.

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