Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias was riding his bike down Van Ness Avenue when he noticed a chain backlink fence and what appeared like development going on at Hardy’s Theatre.
It was odd for the reason that the 104-12 months-previous downtown theater is inside the council district he signifies and he hadn’t witnessed or listened to about any planned renovations.
Neither had anyone else at the town.
When the District 3 councilmember was lastly ready to tour the constructing on Wednesday, it was with personnel from metropolis code enforcement and customers of the scheduling and historic preservation committees. They identified that substantial areas of the inside experienced been gutted.
The complete 2nd amount was taken off — some 1,000 theater seats — to make room for dwelling quarters, together with plaster from the partitions and significantly of the authentic decorative do the job. All that is left is the primary phase.
“It’s individually devastating to me, how an individual took a hammer to such a historic jewel,” Arias suggests.
The metropolis cited the building’s operator, the Common Church of the Kingdom of God, for quite a few code violations, together with development without the need of a permit. The town is meeting this week to determine upcoming steps, which could include a get the job done stoppage and added fines.
There is also the risk the city could need the church to rebuild elements that had been destroyed, Arias says.
“We’re in uncharted territory. It’s unprecedented the amount of money of demolition that has been done.”
Hardy’s is the oldest present theater in Fresno. It opened in 1917 on Van Ness around Tulare Avenue and is outlined on the Regional Sign up of Historic Sources as the Liberty Theater. It was renamed the Hardy’s Theatre in 1931.
That’s the name its greatest acknowledged by and the one that is nonetheless witnessed on the 1950s marquee out front.
Simply because the theater is on the area registry, it does have some protections, says Chris Rocha, who runs Classic Fresno and sits on the city’s Historic Preservation Fee. That contains adjustments made to the exterior of the creating. The commission is examining whether or not that consists of the Hardy’s marquee, which the church wants to pull down and change with its possess signage.
There are less protections for the interior of the building, he says, but “had they pulled permits, there would have been some oversight.”
What is Common Church?
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God was set up in the late ’70s and serves largely Spanish-talking evangelicals. Over the yrs, it grew into an global mega church with headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil. The church is operate by Edir Macedo, a man whose net worth was $1.1 billion in 2015, in accordance to Forbes.
There are now two Universal Church spots in Fresno, the two on Belmont Avenue. There are also church web pages in Bakersfield, Madera, Merced, Stockton and Visalia, according to its web site.
The theater was sold to the church very last year.
When reached by e-mail on Thursday, a spokesperson from Common Church headquarters didn’t give remark but stated they would contact the church’s workforce in California as shortly as attainable to get a clear status on the residence.
Historic structures, even these that have been unused for a long time, can be preserved, Arias states. The Expositor Creating, the city’s H2o Tower and the Resort Fresno are good illustrations. Lodge Fresno, which is six months from completion has an professional on internet site to make sure the building’s historic attributes are kept intact.
“That’s what you do when you are renovating a historic asset,” Arias states.
One more theater in jeopardy?
This is not the city’s only working with a theater operator around historic designations.
In May, the town submitted for a courtroom buy to be permitted to enter Tower Theatre and appraise it as a historical landmark. That theater was granted national historical position in 1992 by the Countrywide Parks Assistance and arrived less than scrutiny adhering to its sale to Journey Church. That sale didn’t go via.
Town leaders argue the historic standing of the theater offers the city the electricity to assessment the developing to “preserve, advertise and make improvements to the historic assets and districts of the city of Fresno for instructional, cultural, financial and common welfare of the public.”
So much the metropolis has not been allowed to enter the theater and the case is however in courtroom.
What transpired at Hardy’s is proof that the city is not overreacting, Arias says.
“This is affirmation that the risk to historical preservation is actual … In a 48-hour period of time, you can lose a historic developing.”