After weeks of occasionally strident acrimony, especially on Facebook, one would think that there is an uprising against gentrification and redevelopment directed at the Huntridge Revival in the heart of Las Vegas.
Apparently not so much.
Supporters of that development effort were more-or-less singing "Kumbaya" at a community meeting Thursday night that attracted few critics and a lot of supporters.
About 120 came to remember the Huntridge Theater of their memories, a place where they saw (or played in) rock shows, saw their favorite movies, had their first kiss. The 69-year-old theater is in disrepair, and a trio of Las Vegas entrepreneurs has signed a commitment to buy it. Their proposal is contingent upon getting support from the community, and includes an effort to raise $50,000 from individuals by the end of next month through an online crowdsourcing engine.
So far, Huntridge Revival LLC has raised more than $30,000 of its Indiegogo $150,000 goal; Huntridge Revival has a $50,000 payment to the owners, who most recently have used the location as a cut-rate furniture store, due in August.
Buying the property would cost $4 million, one of the principals, Michael Cornthwaite, said at the meeting. He has said fully rehabilitating it could cost $15 million.
Supporters of the project -- and attendees appeared to be almost united in their support at the community meeting -- included gray-haired punk rockers and young men and women too young to drink alcohol; moms and dads towing toddlers and babies; real-estate agents rubbing elbows with tattooed local artists. It was, in short, a reflection of the diverse and engaged community of downtown and Huntridge community residents.
Supporters also included Brian “Paco” Alvarez, an advocate for arts and a museum curator who emceed the meeting, and members of the panel who spoke on the proposal to rehab the Huntridge Theater: Kathleen Kahr D’Esposito, president of the Huntridge Neighborhood Association; Bob Stoldal, a longtime member of the Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs in the State Historic Preservation Office, and executive vice president for news at KSNV-Channel 3; Nichole Sligar, a volunteer for Save the Huntridge, the ad-hoc group supporting the rehab effort; Dave McMahan, a Las Vegas musician whose band played the venue; and Cornthwaite, who, along with the Huntridge effort, is also owner of the Downtown Cocktail Room and The Beat coffeehouse.
A number of people voiced their support for the proposed rehab effort during a half-hour question-and-answer period at the meeting; the closest anyone came to criticism came when Las Vegas musician and artist Ginger Bruner, who has longstanding ties to the neighborhood, asked why Huntridge Revival was going forward as a for-profit venture. Her question sparked a small wave of applause; the question of for- versus nonprofit has divided some of those who want to see the theater resurrected.
Being a nonprofit, Bruner said, would get critics “off your back.”
A community activist and writer (occasionally for CityLife), Hektor D. Esparza, has proposed an effort that would bring together a nonprofit component with the existing for-profit corporation. At the meeting, Cornthwaite and Joey Vanas, who is one of Cornthwaite’s partners in Huntridge Revival, said they were open to the idea of a nonprofit entity to lead the work.
“There’s only one plan, and that’s to bring it back to life,” Cornthwaite told the crowd, and later, “I have nothing against nonprofits ... I just want to keep every possibility, every avenue, open.”
The principals described the challenge that they face. Community member Cymbra Valenzuela asked the panel members to describe the condition of the existing structure. The response was far from positive.
“Maybe we should all just remember how it was at this point,” Cornthwaite suggested. “Would anyone be offended by the word, ‘shit’?” asked Stodal.
Cornthwaite said there is no plumbing or running water in the remnants of the theater complex, parts of the complex have been damaged by flooding, floors and ceilings have been extensively damaged.
But despite all the neglect and destruction, “The structure itself looks good,” Vanas said, sparking another short round of applause.