WAXAHACHIE — After two years of sitting in limbo, the City of Waxahachie has taken steps to reacquire ownership of the historic Texas Theater in downtown Waxahachie.
The theater was sold to Jim Lake Companies in 2015, which had planned to restore the building and find an operator to run it as an entertainment venue.
“A couple of years ago Jim and Amanda Lake approached us about purchasing the Texas Theater. At the time we had an operator in there for a number of years, Tim Eaton. He did a great job, but honestly, the economy was working against him. When Tim left, we were left sitting with a building that did not have anyone in it,” Waxahachie Assistant City Manager Michael Scott said. “So Jim and Amanda had approached us about purchasing it. They said they had an operator ready to go who knows theaters and knows how to run a venue like that, which is a unique business. They had plans for renovating it and laid all of these things out for us.”
Scott stated the idea was presented to the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board, who thought it was a good idea.
Previously the TIRZ board funds were used by the city to purchase the theater back in 2008 from then-owner Jerry Camp to preserve it as an entertainment venue. The purchase price was for $260,000 and $40,000 was used for building renovations.
The city council approved the sale the Jim Lake Companies at the Feb. 2, 2015 council meeting.
According to a Feb. 7, 2015 Daily Light article, the city sold the building for $200,000 in a 10-year agreement, with the condition that the city will start collecting funds in year six with five payments of $40,000 a year.
In the agreement, the city agreed to pay half of the construction cost to fix the theater’s roof and 100 percent of the cost to hire Exterior Consulting Innovations, Inc., which served in a project management role. The cost to hire ECI was $48,170. Another condition of the agreement was to have the building up to code and other renovations to be completed within 15 months.
As part of the agreement, the city placed a deed restriction on the property. This restriction limits the use of the building to be used only as a theater, commercial amusement uses or other related uses. Other uses would have to be approved by the city. The deed restriction stays with the building for life.
“The idea was that the contractors that were working on the buildings (on Franklin Street) were going to roll right into the Texas Theater project. Obviously, they have had a number of issues with their contractor on those buildings. There were delays and different problems. Everything kind of fell apart,” Scott explained. “So they didn’t have a contractor ready to go to roll right into the Texas Theater. Essentially the Texas Theater project never came to fruition.”
He added that enough time has elapsed and the Lakes' have not come forward in presenting a real plan for restoring and using the building.
Scott noted that a lot of things have changed over the past few years that would make the Texas Theater a success. Some of these factors include the success of the Crossroads of Texas Film Festival and new businesses in the downtown area.
“We think that there are ways to utilize it. The intent would not be some big money making operation,” Scott stated. “So when you say 'is the market ready for it,' it is not necessarily ready for it to make a big profit. But we think that with everything else going on in downtown that there might be an appetite to have a downtown venue like it that is ready to use.”
Scott said that many of historic theaters around the state are owned by cities or not-for-profit organizations. One of the examples of this type of ownership he pointed to was the Majestic Theater that belongs to the City of Dallas.
According to the Majestic Theater Facebook page, the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs manages the theater that was built in 1921 and hosts a variety of concerts, performing arts, comedy and corporate events throughout the year.
Scott noted the city has already had some casual conversations with a few operators that they think might be interested in the project but have not yet finalized any agreements.
The details are still being worked out on the transfer of property at this time. It is anticipated that TIRZ funds will be used in restoring the building.
“I would say in the next couple of months that we should be all through the logistics of everything that needs to happen from a legal standpoint and then go to closing,” Scott said. “Then we go to the TIRZ Board and hopefully get money to hire someone like Architexas or a historically minded architect and begin working on the plans for the renovation. We just don’t want to be sitting on it. We want to get it back in use.” Scott added that the city has no ill feelings or animosity towards Jim and Amanda Lake about the theater and understand that things do happen. The Daily Light reached out to Jim Lake and left voice mail messages, but calls went unreturned as of press time.
The Texas Theater is located at 110 W. Main St. in downtown Waxahachie.