It’s been a long time coming, and on Friday, the Office of Planning said a final time that octogenarian owner Milton McGinty may not raze the historic Takoma Theatre.
McGinty bought the building in 1983, renovated, and staged productions or rented out the space for the next two decades. In 2007, however, he shut the theatre down, and applied to build a five-story, 43-unit apartment building that would maintain the theater’s original façade and a 100-seat performance venue. The Historic Preservation Review Board disapproved, but McGinty came back this last January, claiming economic hardship and arguing that his residential complex was a project of “special merit” that deserved an exception.
Community and historic preservation groups, along with the local ANC, lined up against the destruction of 75 percent of the theater. And ultimately, the Office of Planning agreed, ruling that there were economically viable uses for the Theatre other than a new residential building that McGinty had not explored.
Now, someone needs to come up with the money to upgrade the facility for some sort of adaptive re-use.
“While this is, of course, good news, it also means we now need to ramp up our efforts to find the means to acquire and revive the theatre for community use,” says Loretta Neumann, of the Takoma Theatre Conservancy. “But this major hurdle, the potential demolition of the theatre itself, is over.”
McGinty did not respond to an email over the weekend.