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Ridglea Theater receives historical designation

Ridglea Theater receives historical designation

Fort Worth honored the Ridglea Theater on Camp Bowie with its highest historical designation on Monday by the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission, despite the theater being closed for renovation.

Owner Jerry Shults said the designation was the first step toward being named an official historical landmark.

The building has experienced three different owners since a bankruptcy in October 2009, according to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article. Two months before Shults bought the building in December, Bank of America backed out of a deal to buy the property. The bank had intended to tear down parts of the structure and rebuild it as a branch location. The plans attracted the attention of the preservation organization Historic Fort Worth. The non-profit organization has been a major supporter of protecting the building over the past several months, according to the article.

Landmarks Commission Chairman Ames Fender said the designation would show how much Fort Worth residents care about their past.

“We value it and realize that it’s a resource, and when it’s gone it cannot be replaced,” Fender said.

In addition to the historical and cultural value, Shults expected the complex to hold a greater business value than in recent years, he said. The theater has been undergoing a major internal restoration, and Shults said he expected the venue to reopen in September.

According to the theater’s website, it has showcased many notable musical acts such as Willie Nelson, Death Cab for Cutie, Rise Against, Modest Mouse, and The Flaming Lips.

In addition to concerts, fraternities and sororities on campus have regularly rented out the building to host social events.

Junior Sigma Chi Social Chair Jon Sanfelippo said his fraternity has conducted several events each year at the theater, and now must find an alternative location.

He said there weren’t many venues that can hold over 2,000 people like the Ridglea Theater.

Shults said he was greatly moved by the people that banded together to save the theater.

“It ensures for generations to come that this wonderful building will still be here,” Shults said.

Historic Preservation Officer Jamie Zwolak said the designation will guarantee that any exterior alterations to the building will now have to be approved by the Landmarks Commission.

Shults said costs to use the building would likely increase after renovation, but he would like to continue working with members of the TCU community. The designation applies not only to the Ridglea Theater, but also to the attached shopping center and office complex.

“Making TCU part of this is very important to me,” Shults said, adding that the theme of the theater would be purple neon.

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