Editorial: Help save the historic Atlantic Theater in North Long Beach

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atlantic-theatreSubmitted by Long Beach Heritage

The Atlantic Theater a historic Long Beach landmark may be demolished unless the RDA receives wide community support to save the building for redevelopment adaptive reuse.

Even though the Atlantic Theater (5870 Atlantic Avenue) is eligible as a city and state landmark and is  eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and even though the Environmental Impact Report on the project declares adaptive reuse of the theater as a viable, and in some respects, preferable option, the City and the developer support a development alternative that would result in the theater’s demolition.

Long Beach Heritage urges the Redevelopment Agency to certify the North Village Project EIR and to direct that the project go forward utilizing the adaptive reuse option for the Atlantic Theater, rather than the alternative in the EIR that would call for the theater’s demolition.

Keeping the Atlantic Theater will enable this North Long Beach neighborhood to use its architecture and history as a unifying theme for economic and civic revitalization. Many cities across the nation are fostering civic and neighborhood pride by utilizing that unique sense of identity based on the city’s historic built environment.

LBH is asking its members and friends of preservation who support the saving and adaptive reuse of the Atlantic Theater to contact the RDA immediately.

Background: Long Beach Heritage’s Involvement & Efforts to Protect the Atlantic Theater

By way of background, Long Beach Heritage has been proactively involved in ongoing efforts to safeguard and preserve the Atlantic Theater in North Long Beach for adaptive reuse for some 5 years now. We have supported the Theater’s nomination as a city landmark in 2005, and throughout this time period, in RDA meetings and other forums and venues, and in support of the views expressed by others, we have consistently and unwaveringly supported and extolled the virtues and benefits of adaptive reuse of the theater. When the Draft EIR on the North Village Project was issued in August of this year, declaring that adaptive reuse of the Atlantic Theater would be “environmentally superior, as it would avoid significant impacts related to historic resources and land use and planning”, we issued a response to the EIR, applauding the conclusions regarding adaptive reuse being a viable, and in some respects more favorable, alternative for the project, and seriously questioning how, under the circumstances, the City and the developer could support an alternative that contemplates demolition of the Theater.

We submit that in any redevelopment project, the default should always be to strive to retain and preserve those portions of the earlier city which have true historic significance, and to incorporate and adaptively reuse outstanding reminders of the city’s past into the redesigned area in order to develop a sense of history and a heightened sense of pride in the community and city.  Demolition should always be a last resort.

In the case of the Atlantic Theater:

  1. The structure is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
  2. The Draft EIR’s author declares that adaptive reuse of this historically significant structure would meet most of the objects of the proposed project and would avoid the significant impact to historic resources that would result from its demolition, favored by the city and the developer.

As to impacts to the Aesthetics, Air Quality, Hazard, Noise, Transportation/Traffic, Utilities, according to the DEIR, the plan that includes adaptive reuse of the structure surpasses the “General Plan/Zoning Consistent Project” plan advanced by the city in eight out of the twelve impacts associated with development of this site (Table 6-7; p. 6-12).

Just as significantly, on the issue of sustainability and advancing a “green agenda”, the DEIR clearly demonstrates that adaptive reuse of the structure is the “Environmentally Superior Alternative”, since reusing and retrofitting existing buildings dramatically reduces greenhouse emissions when compared to construction, operation and demolition of buildings.

In light of these facts, it is just inexplicable that the project alternative that contemplates demolition of this historic structure would even be considered by the applicant and the City, particularly when the DEIR demonstrates that the theater’s retention and reuse is not only a viable alternative, but in many respects a more favorable alternative.

Reusing the structure that is in place will result in shorter construction time (6.3.8), potential cost savings by not having to build the whole project from the ground up, while also significantly reducing hazardous pollutants in the environment (6.3.5).

Keeping this landmark structure will enable the neighborhood to utilize its architecture and history as a theme for development.   Many cities across the nation are fostering civic and neighborhood pride by utilizing that sense of identity based on the city’s historic built environment.  This is a unique opportunity to foster such pride and STILL develop a much anticipated and much needed project.

How to express  support of historical adaptive reuse of the Atlantic Theater

Write a letter, the sooner the better. The substance of your letter or e-mail should be that you favor the saving and adaptive reuse of the Atlantic Theater, an alternative which the EIR describes as viable and, in some respects, the favorable alternative. Including your own opinions on historical preservation in LB and the importance of Atantic Theater can add weight to LBH’s position on this issue.

Letters of support for the adaptive reuse of the Atlantic Theater should be addressed to the Redevelopment Agency and/or staff, as well as Val Lerch, Vice Mayor and Council Member from the 9th District, where the Atlantic Theater is located.

  • E-mail the RDA Staff: craig.beck@longbeach.gov or amy.bodek@longbeach.gov.
  • Letters to individual Board members — Bill Baker, Chair; Diane Arnold, Vice Chair; John Cross, Vivian Tobias, Teer Strickland, John Thomas — can be sent to the City Hall address: Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, 333 West Ocean Blvd., 3rd Floor, Long Beach CA 90802 or email to RDA@longbeach.gov.
  • 9th District Council Member: Send letters to Val Lerch, Vice Chair City Council, 333 Ocean, 14th Floor, Long Beach , CA 90802 or by email at val.lerch@longbeach.gov.

The fate of the Atlantic Theater,  a structure of great historic significance in the North Long Beach area and the City, is up in the air, with the potential existing for the theater to either be saved and adaptively reused in the planned North Village Project or demolished and lost forever.

The decision, one way or another will be forthcoming shortly. If the theater is going to be saved, your voice needs to be heard now. And, if this issue resonates with you, urge your friends to become involved and express their views as well.

A copy of the North Village Center Redevelopment Project EIR can be found here: http://www.lbds.info/planning/environmental_planning/environmental_reports.asp. For more information about historic preservation visit www.lbheritage.org.

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