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City TV channel to move into historic theater near Olvera Street

April 15, 2013|By Roger Vincent
  • The Merced Theater, center, was built in 1870 and is one of the oldest structures in Los Angeles.
The Merced Theater, center, was built in 1870 and is one of the oldest structures… (Office of Jose Huizar )

One of the oldest buildings in Los Angeles, the long-vacant Merced Theater near Olvera Street, will become the new home of broadcaster Cityview Channel 35.

The plan approved by the City Council will lead to renovations of the old building in El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, the birthplace of Los Angeles. The Merced Theater was built in 1870 by William Abbot, the son of Swiss immigrants who settled in Los Angeles in 1854.

In 1858, he married the woman for whom he would name the theater, Maria Merced Garcia, the daughter of José Antonio Garcia and María Guadalupe Uribe, who were longtime residents of the Los Angeles pueblo.

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The theater at 420 N. Main St. was designed by Ezra F. Kysor, the architect of the adjacent Pico House. The structure that seated an audience of 400 served as the center of theatrical activity in the city from 1871 to 1876. It was restored decades ago but does not meet modern safety codes necessary for occupancy.

Cityview is the government-access television channel broadcast on Channel 35 to basic cable subscribers in Los Angeles. It provides live coverage of City Council meetings and original programming related to city departments, events and services.

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The station will pay rent of nearly $240,000 a year to rent the 14,255-square-foot property from El Pueblo, which is a city department. The station now rents a studio in the privately owned Union Bank Building in Little Tokyo.

“This is a win for the residents of Los Angeles, the historic Merced Theater and El Pueblo Historical Monument, as well as Channel 35,” said Councilman Jose Huizar. “We will reactivate a building that has sat empty for years, while allowing us to continue to provide much-needed programming through Channel 35.

In addition to a structural retrofit to meet current code, the renovation will also include construction of a digital television studio, electrical, gas, fire suppression, mechanical, plumbing, fire and security alarm upgrades, as well as historical preservation documentation.

The city’s Bureau of Engineering and Information Technology Agency will set aside $19 million to $23 million to cover the expected renovation costs using Public Education and Governmental Access fee receipt revenue that can be used only for related capital expenses, Huizar’s office said.

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