GLENDALE — Two decades after the bickering began, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency endorsed a compromise on the Alex Theatre Tuesday, awarding a $6.2-million contract for renovation and conversion of the historic vaudeville and movie house into a performing arts center.
"This thing has been studied for 15 to 20 years," Laurence R. Clarke, chairman of the newly incorporated Alex Regional Theatre board, said at a press conference Friday. "Our commitment was that it would happen this time. This theater is going to open in 1993."
With that, the hammering will begin today as more than 30 subcontractors and artisans pitch in on the 10-month task of converting the ornate 1925 movie house at 216 N. Brand Blvd. into a cultural jewel.
It is a task that skeptics said never would happen, given the divisive goals of the many varied groups that have fought over the project for years. Even the City Council's final 4-to-1 vote Tuesday to grant a building permit reflects the dissent that has permeated the undertaking.
Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg has consistently voted against the project, partly because she objects to the proposed removal of the 52-year-old canopy roof that stretches from the theater box office on Brand to the entry doors.
The majority of the council, which also serves as the redevelopment agency, agreed that the canopy should be removed to uncover the unusual neo-Greek architecture of the original building.
Approval of the project has been marked by a series of compromises since Clarke was named in January, 1991, to head a 21-member task force to determine the scope and type of renovation that would be acceptable to a variety of factions. At least half a dozen previous proposals and studies were dropped without action because of bickering among civic, cultural and historical groups.
The final project, expected to be completed by September, will retain the theater's 1940s-era box office, marquee and 100-foot-high neon spire. Its name, "the Alex," is an abbreviated version of the original Alexander, representing another compromise. Seating in the balcony, which was closed for more than 30 years, will be restored. The vaudeville stage will be expanded for musicals and other live performances; more restrooms will be added, and aisles will be widened. Seats will accommodate 1,435.
The nine-member Alex Regional Theatre board was incorporated this fall as a nonprofit organization to oversee development and management of the theater.
The board, whose members were appointed by the City Council, is negotiating with Theatre Corp. of America--which operates the Pasadena Playhouse and provides programming for theaters in Santa Barbara and San Diego--to develop programming for the Alex.
The Wayne Ratkovich Co. of Los Angeles, which completed restoration of the Wiltern Theatre and Art Deco office tower in the mid-Wilshire District in 1985, is project manager. Turner Construction Co. of Los Angeles, also a specialist in theater work, is the general contractor.
The theater board next year plans to launch a major fund-raising campaign and endowment program to help support the Alex and cultural development in Glendale, Clarke said.