Buyer hopes to spark interest in downtown with revamped theater

By: Kristyne E. Demske, | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 29, 2017

It’s been vacant for more than a decade, but the owner of several buildings in the city is hoping to revive the Shores Theatre building on Greater Mack Avenue south of Nine Mile Road.

LaHood Properties closed on the building June 20. Owner Al LaHood said that the company already owns and manages more than a dozen buildings in the Nine-Mack area, including the building immediately to the south of the former theater.

“I would like to truly make that into a downtown area for St. Clair Shores, and to do that, you need attractions,” he said. “What I’m looking for is to hopefully attract either another film theater or even possibly a playhouse.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

“It’s the type of investment that I want to create a downtown area there, and to have a downtown area there, you have to have an additional draw.”

LaHood said that, first, he hopes to redo the building’s exterior.

“I would like to start that within the next month or so, tearing off that old mansard up there and the fake brick below it. Then I’ve got to see what I want to do,” he said.

St. Clair Shores Mayor Kip Walby said that he and other city officials are “ecstatic” that someone has purchased the building and wants to restore it.

“It’s historic. It’s great preserved history, and you don’t have many places left that have these small, little theaters,” Walby said. “That area, what we call downtown St. Clair Shores, it’s still thriving. It’s very successful as it is ... and this would only add to it.”

He said he remembers going to the theater as recently as the early 2000s with his wife, before it shut down.

“Anyone who was born and raised here, who has been a longstanding resident, has been in that theater,” he said. “We have all enjoyed that theater.”

When the theater will reopen or what will be done with the building is one of the most asked questions that Walby gets wherever he goes.

“There is a desire to bring it back,” he said. “This is big. (When residents) start seeing stuff working on it, it’s all going to be really good.”

LaHood said he is in “very, very preliminary discussions with somebody” about taking occupancy of the 9,622-square-foot theater after the outside renovations are done, but he warned residents not to expect anything to happen very quickly.

“I would love for it to be a fast turnaround. The probability of a fast turnaround is not very great,” he said. “What it all comes down to is the financials that you have to come up with — it’s going to be something that has to work for everybody.”

Looking at the demographics of the area, the closest first-run movie theater is eight miles away, so “that is a positive,” LaHood said. Unfortunately, he said, most film theater operators look for a larger venue than what the building has to offer.

When the theater closed in approximately 2006, it contained two movie screens showing first-run films.

LaHood said he is open to any idea to create an attraction in the area.

“You’ve got to find the right person,” he said. “The demographics of the area are interesting. It’s a nice population. It’s a nice group of people, and they have a decent income.”

“We’re very thankful (to) Mr. LaHood, that he has purchased this,” Walby said. “He owns a number of buildings in that whole strip, that whole area, so this is very exciting to have Mr. LaHood purchasing it.”