The marquee at the Suburban World theater in south Minneapolis may soon shine again as a developer plans to convert the former movie theater into an event hall and concert venue.
The vacant structure, which was known as the Granada Theater when it was built in 1927, is located on Hennepin Avenue close to Lake Street in a bustling part of Uptown next to an Apple store and across the street from an H&M store.
The local landmark had been known as the first neighborhood theater to show talking pictures, but for more than five years it has sat empty as the rest of the area grew into a trendy shopping and restaurant hangout.
Doug Hoskin, a principal for Interstate Parking, has emerged as a new buyer of the property, though the deal hasn’t closed yet. Florida firm YAD Hennepin LLC has owned the building since 2014. Hoskin is working with Minneapolis-based firm DJR Architecture to redesign the space.
The project is dependent on approval by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission, which is scheduled to discuss the plans next Tuesday.
“It is a cool project,” said Dean Dovolis, founder and principal of DJR. “It’s exciting to have the building get back into the public use and the public domain again.”
The theater, which is designated as a local historic landmark, is known for its Spanish Revival style with mock balconies, balustrades and arched windows.
The Suburban World’s auditorium, which is the only surviving example of an atmospheric auditorium in the city and one of the last remaining in the state, was designed to look like the viewers were watching a movie outside under the stars with artificial trees and a curved midnight-blue ceiling with twinkling star lights and projected clouds. Originally, there was also a moon that “rose” and “set” during a movie screening.
Dovolis, who is of Greek heritage, said when he went to the theater it reminded him of the open-air theaters he saw when he visited Greece.
“It is patterned after theaters that were in southern Europe,” he said. “It reminded me of that. It was the closest thing that I could experience.”
DJR and Hoskin have plans to clean and repaint the historic plaster scenic walls and ceiling as well as the original twinkling ceiling lights. Dovolis said designers hope to reverse many of the changes the building underwent when it served as a dinner theater. There are plans to clean and repaint the exterior walls, repair the marquee, and improve the lobby. Accessible bathrooms will be added, and a demolished terrazzo-style floor will be replaced.
The event center would be flexible with movable seating that could accommodate about 450 people for concerts or be used for banquet-style celebrations, Dovolis said. A new bar area would be created and a kitchen would be added near the projection area, along with additional terraces for dining and seating.
If the city’s response to the plans is favorable, the developer wants to close on the sale and begin construction immediately with the theater possibly reopening in late winter or next spring, Dovolis said.