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December 18, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: CITY HALL:

Owner says he’s tried to find use for Huntridge

He wants to save theater, he says, but effort has dead-ended

The owner of the historic Huntridge Theatre says he doesn’t want to see the landmark torn down.

The problem, Eli Mizrachi says, is that he has tried many different ways to get groups or the city or businesses interested in doing something with the place.

But no one seems to want it.

“Look, I’m not a bad dude,” the 35-year-old said. “If you could just give me anything to put in there, I would be more than happy to work with anyone. It’s a pretty old building, it’s pretty damn cool, but it’s really unusable, I guess, because we can’t get anyone in there.”

He said he has talked to the city about using it as a site for a museum. That went nowhere. He has also talked to “theater people” who came and looked at the space, which was long ago gutted of theater seats, “then never heard back from them.”

Mizrachi’s building is at the center of a grass-roots firestorm, because this month he will ask the state Cultural Affairs Commission to let him buy his way out of an agreement between the state and the theater made long before Mizrachi bought it. Under that agreement, a group called Friends of the Huntridge Theatre received about $1.5 million over several years to keep the building intact. Until the end of that agreement in 2017, Mizrachi can do nothing with the building.

But if he is able and allowed to pay back the money, he could do with the building as he pleases, as soon as he wants. Though he had long ago thought of putting up an office building there, he said this week that’s now out of the question.

Built in 1944 and once owned by 1947 Oscar winner Loretta Young, the structure worked as a movie theater for 40 years. It reopened in 1993 as a performing arts center. Various musical acts played there, including Sheryl Crow and Kelly Osbourne, daughter of rock star Ozzie Osbourne, in 2003. Its last show was in 2004.

Residents are starting to organize to save the theater.

Randa Reiff Shea wrote the state that a son, Brendan, was so inspired by the Huntridge that he applied for and is now in the architectural program at UCLA.

“When I called Brendan last Sunday to read out loud to him the Sun’s article on the Huntridge Theatre, I was surprised to learn that Brendan already knew the name of the architect who had designed the Huntridge Theatre and the style of the Huntridge’s architecture,” Shea wrote.

Meanwhile, Huntridge preservationists have secured a Web site address, SaveTheHuntridge.com, and will meet at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Downtown Cocktail Room, 111 Las Vegas Blvd., to voice their concerns and share ideas.

•••

For the group that wants to build a sports arena downtown, it seems that D-Day will arrive in July.

After meeting with financiers of a proposed downtown arena, Mayor Oscar Goodman expressed optimism about new ideas for financing the plan. The first stage of what is envisioned as a $10.5 billion, 80-plus-acre development is a $1 billion arena and entertainment venue.

When asked if he thought the group, which is spearheaded by REI Neon, based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., could get the money together by the end of the year, Goodman said it better be earlier than that.

“In my opinion, if this deal is done, they’re going to have to have that shovel in the ground by July.”

The reason: a footrace with Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which has partnered with Anschutz Entertainment Group to build a 20,000-seat arena near the Strip, with completion expected in 2010. If REI doesn’t break ground first, it may not break ground at all, Goodman worries.

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