The historic Granada Theater building in downtown The Dalles has been sold to new owners.
Charles Gomez and Debra Liddell, who do business as Charles Gomez Productions, paid $60,000 for the property and committed to pay for a list of upgrades to the exterior and interior of the theater. The upgrades are projected to cost approximately $300,000.
“We are so joyous in our hearts to finally have the theater brought back to life,” Gomez said. “It’s a wonderful building and a historic place for the town and the downtown. So here we come.”
The Dalles City Attorney Gene Parker said the transaction was completed last week.
“Following an executive session on March 21, the Urban Renewal Board voted to approve the execution of an agreement for the disposition and redevelopment of the Granada Theater,” Parker explained. “Under the agreement, Mr. Gomez and Ms. Liddell will acquire the property for the sum of $60,000. This sum is to be paid over a period of three years in installments of $20,000.”
Parker said the theater was purchased by the Urban Renewal Agency in May 2010 for $385,406.
“That included $198,000 for the real property and $187,406 for personal property inside the theater,” Parker explained.
According to Parker, the deal with Charles Gomez Productions calls for the second and third installments to bear interest at the rate of 5 percent per year. The agreement anticipates the purchase will be finalized on April 10, 2020.
“The agency will continue to retain title to the property until the purchase price has been paid in full and the listed improvements have been completed,” Parker said, adding that Gomez and Liddell will provide the Urban Renewal Agency with regular reports on the progress of the renovations.
An official “handing over of the keys” ceremony is scheduled for Friday, March 31, at 3:30 p.m. at the theater.
Mayor Steve Lawrence said he was happy and relieved that the building, at 221 E. Second Street, was sold to individuals who have a plan to bring the theater back to life.
“Absolutely. It’s a good deal,” Lawrence said. “We (Urban Renewal Agency) purchased the Granada in 2010. That’s a long time to spend money on urban renewal and have it sit off the tax rolls.”
The theater, which was constructed in 1929, was envisioned as a centerpiece for redevelopment of the city block where it is located.
Gomez said he anticipates the theater will need modernization in various areas, including the building’s plumbing and electrical systems, but is optimistic the building will be ready for a grand reopening in late summer or early fall of this year.
“It depends on the building inspector and what we have to upgrade and modernize for the grand reopening,” he said.
“We’ve already purchased a state of the art sound system, lighting and projection equipment. The reopening will take place as soon as we have had a chance to make a full evaluation of exactly what restoration will be needed, but we can say it will be complete and fabulous.”
Lawrence said he believes the new owners are a natural fit for the theater, and believes they can make it thrive.
“It's an experienced theatre group,” Lawrence said. “They will plan on bringing a diverse number of talent shows.”
Gomez and Liddell also own a historic theater in Watseka, Ill., a town of 5,000, and say it has been very successful.
“Together, she (Liddell) and I transformed the nearly-in-total-ruins-Watseka Theatre into one of the most successful small house venues in all America,” Gomez said.
“It is this same format that we have planned for the Granada.”
Gomez said a wide variety of events will be scheduled at the Granada.
“We show old-time movie classics from Hollywood’s Golden Age during the summer months, mostly enjoyed by our senior citizens,” Gomez said. “We also plan on this for the Granada, but may even expand it for a second day of the week with movies of a more military theme for the local veterans who we all owe our greatest gratitude.”
Gomez said the theater will be available to host school programs from grade school to high school, awards programs, weddings, sports team banquets, local debates and government forums, and concerts.
When it comes to the concerts, Gomez and Liddell are thinking big. They pointed out they’ve brought numerous top names to their Watseka theater, including the Marshall Tucker Band, Marty Stewart, Queensryche, Crystal Gayle, the Outlaws, and many more.
“These are all part of our standard game plan,” Gomez pointed out. “And I’m a former jazz musician, and I can’t wait for Sunday afternoon jazz!”
The Granada deal represents a second chance of sorts for Gomez and Liddell.
In February 2016, the partners were among three entities making bids to purchase the theater. Gomez and Liddell requested that the Granada, along with the neighboring Recreation and Blue buildings —- also owned by the Urban Renewal Agency — be sold to them for $1, but were told the properties would not be sold at that price.
Eventually, the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Advisory Committee decided there was not enough information about the scope of work or how it would be financed, and negotiations with all three potential buyers broke down.
Gomez and Liddell continued to be interested in a deal, however, and with a contract now in place, Gomez said he is happy everything finally worked out.
“After more than three years of planning, designing, walk-throughs, meetings and video presentations, we are at long last closing on the historic Granada Theatre,” Gomez said.
Gomez and Liddell said they plan an open house at the theater on Sunday, April 2, from noon until 3 p.m., to celebrate with community residents.
“It will be open to all,” Gomez said. “Come young, come old, and see the theater as she is today so you can see her rebirth grandeur when she officially opens.”
City Councilor Linda Miller said she is enthusiastic about what the new owners can bring to the downtown area.
“The buyers have experience in renovating an old vacant theater and they are extremely excited about getting the Granada back to being another jewel in The Dalles,” Miller said.
“I am hoping with the revolution of the Granada that the other buildings that are vacant in the block will be seen as an opportunity to invest in The Dalles and bring new innovative businesses.”