Breathing new life into Houston theater left vacant for decades

Multi-million dollar project to restore DeLuxe Theater in Houston's Fifth Ward gets underway
February 17, 2014 10:02:09 AM PST
After 40 years, a once-bright spot in Houston's Fifth Ward is getting a new life. On Monday the city kicked off a multi-million dollar plan to renovate the historic DeLuxe Theater and give it new purpose.

Mayor Annise Parker broke ground Monday on a project to bring new life to the Fifth Ward's historic DeLuxe Theater on Lyons Avenue. In a partnership between the City, Texas Southern University (TSU) and the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Authority (FWCRC), the once popular movie house is being converted to a 125-seat performing arts theater, with classroom space, a laboratory and space for future retail development.

"The DeLuxe Theater has long been a fixture in the Fifth Ward," said Mayor Annise Parker. "This project will give it a new lease on life."

Many who grew up in this community remember the movie house that was a community staple. One resident said she remembers paying 25 cents for her movie, and another resident recalls the popcorn there as the best ever made.

The city says everything is in place for this $5 million renovation project that has been in the works for several years.

The current renovation is actually the third act of the old theater's life. Opened in 1941, the DeLuxe had a 28-year run as a movie house before closing in 1969. From 1971 to 1973, it was used as an art gallery, first under the sponsorship of the Menil Foundation and later by Hope Development Inc. The building has remained shuttered for the past 40 years.

In 1998, the Fifth Ward CRC purchased the theater and adjacent furniture store and began a master plan to reutilize the DeLuxe as a community performing and visual arts facility. The City acquired the building in 2009 using grant funds.

City Councilman Jerry Davis says he has worked alongside the mayor and former city councilmember Jarvis Johnson to help make this project a reality, and he adds that this is a big step in re-building the Fifth Ward community.

"It's good to see that we are reinvesting in the community," Davis said. "This brings forth light and hope for them. We just have to make sure that the ball doesn't stop, it continues to roll."

The city says this project had a major push from the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, with Reverend Harvey Clemons. The project could take three to five years to complete.

The theater renovation will also include restoration of its famous marquis, designed in the Streamline Moderne architectural style popular in America from 1920-1940.

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