Fresno CA fines church around renovation of downtown theater


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The Hardy’s Theatre on Van Ness Avenue in downtown Fresno.

The Hardy’s Theatre on Van Ness Avenue in downtown Fresno.

Fresno Bee file

Fresno Metropolis Councilmember Miguel Arias was driving his bike down Van Ness Avenue when he observed a chain connection fence and what seemed like building occurring at Hardy’s Theatre.

It was odd due to the fact the 104-calendar year-aged downtown theater is in the council district he signifies and he hadn’t observed or listened to about any prepared renovations.

Neither experienced any one else at the metropolis.

When the District 3 councilmember was at last equipped to tour the setting up on Wednesday, it was with employees from city code enforcement and users of the preparing and historic preservation committees. They found out that large parts of the interior had been gutted.

The overall second stage was eradicated — some 1,000 theater seats — to make area for residing quarters, together with plaster from the walls and significantly of the initial decorative get the job done. All that is remaining is the original stage.

“It’s personally devastating to me, how an individual took a hammer to these types of a historic jewel,” Arias suggests.

The town cited the building’s owner, the Common Church of the Kingdom of God, for a number of code violations, which include construction without a allow. The town is conference this 7 days to ascertain up coming actions, which could involve a perform stoppage and additional fines.

There is also the possibility the metropolis could have to have the church to rebuild components that were being destroyed, Arias suggests.

“We’re in uncharted territory. It is unprecedented the volume of demolition that has been completed.”

Hardy’s is the oldest current theater in Fresno. It opened in 1917 on Van Ness in the vicinity of Tulare Avenue and is detailed on the Area Sign-up of Historic Means as the Liberty Theater. It was renamed the Hardy’s Theatre in 1931.

That’s the title its best recognized by and the 1 that is continue to noticed on the 1950s marquee out front.

Simply because the theater is on the nearby registry, it does have some protections, states Chris Rocha, who operates Classic Fresno and sits on the city’s Historic Preservation Fee. That features improvements produced to the exterior of the building. The fee is reviewing no matter whether or not that contains the Hardy’s marquee, which the church desires to pull down and swap with its have signage.

There are much less protections for the interior of the constructing, he states, but “had they pulled permits, there would have been some oversight.”

What is Universal Church?

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God was proven in the late ’70s and serves mainly Spanish-talking evangelicals. About the yrs, it grew into an global mega church with headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil. The church is run by Edir Macedo, a man whose internet really worth was $1.1 billion in 2015, according to Forbes.

There are by now two Common Church destinations in Fresno, each on Belmont Avenue. There are also church internet sites in Bakersfield, Madera, Merced, Stockton and Visalia, according to its web page.

The theater was bought to the church very last yr.

When reached by electronic mail on Thursday, a spokesperson from Universal Church headquarters didn’t give remark but claimed they would get in touch with the church’s group in California as before long as possible to get a very clear status on the property.

Historic buildings, even people 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 terrific examples. Hotel Fresno, which is 6 months from completion has an pro on web page to make certain the building’s historic features are kept intact.

“That’s what you do when you’re renovating a historic asset,” Arias claims.

One more theater in jeopardy?

This isn’t the city’s only dealing with a theater proprietor around historic designations.

In May, the metropolis filed for a court get to be allowed to enter Tower Theatre and appraise it as a historical landmark. That theater was granted countrywide historical position in 1992 by the Nationwide Parks Provider and came less than scrutiny next its sale to Journey Church. That sale did not go via.

Metropolis leaders argue the historical standing of the theater gives the town the energy to review the setting up to “preserve, advertise and improve the historic means and districts of the metropolis of Fresno for academic, cultural, economic and basic welfare of the general public.”

So considerably the city has not been allowed to enter the theater and the circumstance is nevertheless in court docket.

What took place at Hardy’s is proof that the city is not overreacting, Arias claims.

“This is affirmation that the threat to historical preservation is authentic … In a 48-hour period of time, you can eliminate a historic setting up.”

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Joshua Tehee handles breaking news for The Fresno Bee, producing on a broad variety of subjects from police, politics and temperature, to arts and entertainment in the Central Valley.