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‘Save Detroit Theater’ group scores small victory

The Detroit Theater in Lakewood was established in 1923.

The Detroit Theater in Lakewood was established in 1923.

By Sean Webster

Special to West Life

The local community movement to save Lakewood’s Detroit Theater scored a humble victory on Thursday.

Lakewood’s Architectural Review Board deferred the construction plan put forth by McDonald’s, which is looking to purchase and demolish the 87-year-old theater.

The board, which meets once a month, said the current plan would likely cause a traffic “logjam” at the Detroit-Woodward intersection and that the design of the proposed building was “not subtle enough for that front door look we’re going for.”

McDonald’s is looking to relocate from its current location on Sloane Avenue in Lakewood, where it has been for more than 47 years, to the more heavily-trafficked spot on Detroit where the theater currently stands.

Joe Morrison, a representative from McDonald’s, assured the board that the store would be a “Lakewood building and not just a transplant prototype.”

McDonald’s will likely present a revised plan to the board at next month’s meeting, which will take place on Aug. 11.

While the meeting was open to the public, it did not allow for public participation.

However, several people in attendance carried “Save the Detroit Theater” flyers, including Charles Milsaps, the leader of the community movement to save the theater.

In a small meeting for supporters of the movement held at Lakewood Public Library on July 13, Milsaps said it would probably take at least 3 months for McDonald’s to present an acceptable plan to the city, and that it would not buy the theater until its plans were approved.

Although McDonald’s current plan only includes the current Detroit Theater space, Milsaps believes McDonald’s will need more space.

“My guess is they’re going to want UDF [United Dairy Farmers, which is next to the theater] and three or four houses on Woodward Road,” he said.

Milsaps plans to save the theater by buying, reopening and renovating it with his nonprofit organization, the Ohio City Preservation and Restoration Society. He is currently trying to raise enough funds to make an offer to Norman Barr, the owner of the theater.

Milsaps is also trying to get the theater put on the National Registry of Historic Places, which would make it easier for the city to take action to save the theater.

Although he said the city would likely be sued by McDonald’s if it tried to prevent McDonald’s from buying the theater via zoning law changes, “there’s no reason that [Lakewood Mayor Michael] Summers can’t go to McDonald’s and suggest another location.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Milsaps said he may run for mayor in order to get Summers and the city to pay more attention to the issue.

You can follow West Life’s coverage of the “Save the Detroit Theater” campaign on Twitter by searching #saveDTtheater.

 

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