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$500,000 Allocated for Planning Revitalization of the Alex Theatre

December 20, 1990|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After more than a decade of discussion, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday allocated $500,000 toward planning for preservation of the historic Alex Theatre.

The funds--the first to be spent specifically for the theater project in the downtown redevelopment zone--are described as "seed money" for revitalization of the Alex Theatre. The project could cost as much as $15 million, according to earlier estimates.

A portion of the $500,000 could be used to purchase the famed Lanterman Theater organ from La Canada Flintridge and move it to the Alex Theatre, said Jeanne Armstrong, Glendale redevelopment director.

The agency also unanimously authorized formation of an Alex Theatre Revitalization Task Force, a 15-member committee of community representatives to be appointed early next month by Mayor Larry Zarian. The committee will be charged with developing goals for use of the theater and plans to achieve them.

Members of the City Council, who also serve as the agency, had backed off from discussing the Alex Theatre several years ago because the city does not expect to have the money for a major revitalization project before the late 1990s. They said Tuesday, however, that the availability of the organ, as well as a groundswell of community support for the theater, prompted the early action.

"All of the pieces are weaving together," Councilman Carl Raggio said. "Before, it was just wishful thinking."

The La Canada Flintridge City Council agreed in September to sell the rare 1926 Wurlitzer pipe organ given to the city in 1987 from the estate of the late Assemblyman Frank Lanterman. The Alex Theatre originally had an organ of its own and Lanterman had played it on opening night in 1925.

A week after La Canada's decision, the Glendale Historical Society put on a fund-raising, Broadway-style show at the Alex that drew widespread support from the community.

Suddenly, the city's interest in the Alex Theatre was renewed, officials said.

La Canada officials last month tentatively accepted Glendale's offer to buy the organ for $50,000. Details of the sale agreement are expected to be completed within a few weeks, Glendale City Manager Dave Ramsay said.

The action this week will allow Glendale to fulfill its offer. But the cost of relocating and renovating the instrument, one of only four of its kind remaining in the world, is estimated at up to $500,000 and that money will have to come from other sources, officials said.

Mayor Larry Zarian, who is seeking reelection to the council next spring, has made revitalization of the Alex Theatre and acquisition of the organ top priorities. He said strong financial support from the business community is vital to the success of the project.

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