ST. CLAIR SHORES — It was state of the art when it first opened in the 1930s, but since closing in 2006, the Shores Theatre has stood empty — its facade just a reminder of Saturday night shows past.
The theater first opened May 7, 1938, complete with 325 cushioned seats and air conditioning. Its first movie was shown at noon.
Now, the city is trying to work with the building’s owner to get it restored to its heyday, beginning with a resolution in support of its designation as a historic site.
“We are working on trying to revitalize that theater, and we do have interested parties that would like to revitalize it,” said Mayor Kip Walby at the June 16 City Council meeting.
According to the resolution of support for Shores Theatre to be designated as a historic site by the state, which passed unanimously, the city is working with the current owner and a “prominent Michigan-based entertainment corporation” to restore the building to its original exterior design while renovating the inside to be a state-of-the-art movie theater.
Walby warned that getting historic designation was “not a quick process” and could take up to nine months to go through.
“I’ve been really excited about seeing this come back to life,” said Councilwoman Candice Rusie. “Hopefully, this works out.”
Council voted unanimously to recommend the site for historic designation.
The building is owned by Liggett Holdings, LLC, in Grosse Pointe Shores. Calls to the company for comment could not be accommodated by press time.
The complex closed for expansion in December 2006. The plans called for the Shores Theatre, also known as the Shores Madrid Theatre, to expand from 440 seats and two screens to just over 500 seats and five screens. It was intended — as part of the site plan approved by City Council on Oct. 16, 2006 — that the developers would create long-term recordable lease agreements with surrounding business owners within 300 feet of the theater for use of their parking lots. According to expansion plans, the three new studio-sized theaters would have encroached on 21 parking spaces.
The plan still stirred controversy. Al LaHood, who owns property on which the theater would have expanded, and Travis Hamburger owner Paul McAdory opposed in court the $3 million expansion plan because it left only three parking spaces. Developers assumed patrons would be able to use local school parking spaces during specific times of the day, as well as parking lots at surrounding businesses. McAdory did not agree with the plan and argued that he was never contacted for an agreement to such a plan.
That appeal was denied in Macomb County Circuit Court in January 2008.
The building was put up for sale in 2009, but city assessing records show it is still owned by Shores Land, LLC, which has the same business address and phone number as Liggett Holdings.
Walby said June 24 that the hope is that the historical designation will make the site eligible for grant money for rehabilitation.
“We’re looking for some money, and that will possibly give us some opportunity to apply and get some money,” he said. “I think it’s important. Some people call it part of our downtown St. Clair Shores.
“We’re trying to work hard on this side on a building that’s been vacant.”
Getting the theater to reopen would be good for the entire Nine-Mack area, he said.
“If it was to turn back into some type of theater, I think that would reinvigorate the area, get people into the area,” Walby said.
Staff Writer Julie Snyder contributed to this article.
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