Historic DeLuxe Theater in Fifth Ward to be renovated

KPRC Local 2 Photojournalist Joe Campos

HOUSTON - Community leaders participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a project to revive Fifth Ward's historic DeLuxe Theater on Lyons Avenue.

In a partnership between the city of Houston, Texas Southern University and the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Authority (FWCRC), the once popular movie house is being converted to a 125-seat performing arts theater, with classroom space, a laboratory and space for future retail development, Mayor Annise Parker announced.

"The Deluxe Theater has long been a fixture in the Fifth Ward," the mayor said. "This project will give it a new lease on life. It shows that with creativity and willing partners, we can find productive uses for our historic buildings. Students and the community will have a new facility for the arts, and our economy will enjoy the jobs created by the construction work."

The renovation is being referred to as the DeLuxe Theater's third act, after it opened in 1941 and had a 28-year run as a movie house before closing in 1969. From 1971 to 1973, it was used as an art gallery, first under the sponsorship of the Menil Foundation and later by Hope Development Inc. The building has remained shuttered since that time.

In 1998, the Fifth Ward CRC purchased the theater and adjacent furniture store and began a master plan to reutilize the DeLuxe as a community performing and visual arts facility. The city acquired the building in 2009 using CDBG funds.

The theater renovation will also include restoration of its famous marquis, designed in the Streamline Moderne architectural style, a derivation of the Art Deco style, popular in America from 1920-40.

The city's Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) is overseeing the theater renovation, which HCDD Director Neal Rackleff said is one of several Fifth Ward projects undertaken by the department.

The Houston Housing and Community Development Department is contributing $5.3 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds toward the $5.55 million renovation cost. The Fifth Ward's Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 18 is covering the remaining $250,000, while TSU's lease payments to the city will total $610,725 over five years, and the FWCRC will pay an estimated $179,000 in rent over five years. Both TSU and FWCRC will be allowed to offset their rent by offering the facility as a venue for community events.

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