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Uptown retail boom hasn't revived historic theater

  • Blog Post by: Eric Roper
  • December 4, 2012 - 3:00 PM

Commercial activity has been booming in Uptown lately, but one of the area's most historic attractions remains conspicuously shuttered.

The 85-year-old Suburban World Theater, on Hennepin Avenue between Lake Street and 31st Street, has sat empty for about a year now awaiting a buyer. Originally known as the Granada Theater, the historic landmark is one of the last relics of old Uptown and exemplifies the exotic revival style popular in the 1920s.

Business -- largely in the form of retail chains -- is thriving all around Suburban World. CB2 recently moved in across the street, H&M will open next week, and the Apple Store, Urban Outfitters, Columbia and North Face are just steps away.

But the historic nature of the theater may scaring away buyers. Realtor Jesse Olson says he gets calls about it every day, he shows the property about three or four times a week, and two people have entered into purchase agreements -- only to back out.

There are "several people hovering around it," Olson said. "But the cliffhanger is it's [historic] and not everybody knows that. So once they dig into talking to the city about it, they don't even come close to touching it." 

Renovating a historic building can be tricky, since it is often more expensive and requires approvals from city preservationists. The current asking price is about $850,000. Olson has heard a range of ideas for the location, including a church, theater, bar, nightclub, and even a yoga studio.

"Everybody's got a concept for that place," he said.

About a decade ago, the theater was converted from regular seating into something akin to a multi-level restaurant. In addition to films, owners offered brunch and lunch on the weekend accompanied by vintage cartoons.

Suburban World isn't the only exotic revival theater in Minneapolis that is struggling. The El Lago theater, also built in 1927, has sat empty in the LynLake neighborhood for years.

Here are some photos of the space from the archives:

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