Theater ready for loft project after years of controversy

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — A controversial adult theater is expected next month to begin a long-awaited facelift. The old Park Theatre, 1583 Fort St., will benefit from an $11 million investment by the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency.

The latest transformation of the theater building — which served as a downtown movie house beginning in 1925 before becoming an adult theater in the 1980s — will convert the space into residential lofts with ground floor retail outlets. The project itself has been subject to local controversy over the years, according to Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause.

“It has been an adult theater for a long time,” Diaz Krause said. “A deal was made that when the Hustler Club wanted to open, they would take over the theater also.”

A 2008 settlement between Lincoln Park and the Hustler Club, opened on John A. Papalas Drive, required the Larry Flynt Hustler Club to sell the Park Theatre to a nonprofit group. Since then, the Hustler Club was cited in a separate lawsuit filed by the Bada Bing Club over liquor and adult entertainment licenses.

Plans for the theater building do not include topless dancing or pornographic films, but Diaz Krause said the project met resistance for other reasons.

“Part of the rental units will be Section Eight,” Diaz Krause said, meaning they must be affordable and made available to low-income renters. “Some people have a problem with that. On the upside, it’s a new development.”

The theater building is expected to feature a dozen rental units. Most of the project’s funding comes from $10 million in tax credits, with another $1.2 million in state grants. Groundbreaking is expected to begin next month

“We’ve been waiting years for this project,” Diaz Krause said. “I hope it will be a shot in the arm for downtown and provide the impetus for some businesses to move in.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)