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Lakewood citizens fighting to save their theater

Protestors outside the Sloane Road McDonald's in Lakewood on July 2.

Protestors outside the Sloane Road McDonald's in Lakewood on July 2. (Photo by Sean Webster)

Lakewood

Special to West Life

By Sean Webster

Over the Fourth of July weekend, six nostalgic souls stood outside the Sloane Road McDonald’s in Lakewood, signs in hand, to protest the company’s plan to purchase – and demolish – the city’s 87-year-old Detroit Theater.

While the deal has not yet been finalized, officials from McDonald’s have been talking to the city for the past few months and have made it clear that they want to relocate from Sloane Road to the more-heavily-trafficked spot on Detroit Road where the theater currently stands.

Built in 1923, the theater has been owned by Norman Barr for over 40 years. Barr decided to shut it down this past January after it struggled to perform financially.

Many in Lakewood think the theater deserves one last chance.

“We definitely think the city needs to be more involved,” said Matt Malames, a Lakewood resident who was at the protest on July 2. “They [city officials] need to be figuring out opinions and weighing options because this will affect a lot of people in a mostly negative way.”

The protesters also encouraged others who want to help save the Detroit Theater to attend a community meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Lakewood Public Library.

Less than a month ago, more than 100 concerned Lakewoodites piled into the library to take part in the first public discussion of the matter, which included officials from both the city and McDonald’s.

Toward the end of the meeting, Lakewood native Charles Milsaps stepped up to the microphone and proposed that his group, the Ohio City Preservation and Restoration Society, would apply to have the theater placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, which would allow him to restore and update the theater with historic tax credits, grants, sponsorships, and donations.

While Milsaps has yet to make an offer to Barr, he has simultaneously spearheaded an online campaign to save the theater that might be able to buy him some time. The campaign includes a lively Facebook group with over 700 members, a Twitter account (www.twitter.com/DetroitTheater), and an official website (www.savethedetroittheater.com).

Members of the Facebook group are also calling for a public boycott of the Sloane Road McDonald’s.

The Detroit Theater in Lakewood was established in 1923.

The Detroit Theater in Lakewood was established in 1923. (Photo by Sean Webster)

But unless Milsaps can fully mobilize his online patrons to set aside their keyboards and voice their grievances in the streets, the Detroit Theater seems destined to be relegated to the pages of history.

You can follow West Life’s updates on the Save the Detroit Theater campaign on Twitter by searching #saveDTtheater.

 

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