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Terrace Theater-lovers take proactive approach to save building from wrecking ball

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Out of fear a historic Twin Cities theater will one day be demolished, a group of determined citizens are working to make sure that doesn't happen.

When the Terrace Theater opened in Robbinsdale in 1951, it was one of the most luxurious, comfortable and up-to-date theaters in the country, the Robbinsdale Historical Society says.

It was the last indoor theater designed by Twin Cities architects Liebenberg and Kaplan (L&K), who designed or remodeled dozens of other theaters in the Twin Cities, including ones in Wayzata (1932), Edina (1934), Uptown (1937) the Varsity (1938), Preservation Design Works LLC notes.

The 1,300-seat Terrace Theater gained L&K national attention for its design, which featured a sunken den and fireplace, a television lounge, well-furnished nursery rooms and deep and soft cushion seats, the historical society says. During its heyday, the theater attracted guests from every state and even Canada.

In 1999, the Terrace Theater played its last film, and it has sat vacant ever since.

With the fate of the theater undecided (the owner of the property – Brixmor Property Group – has said it plans to sell the site eventually, but hasn't elaborated, the Sun Post reported last winter), residents who have distinct memories of the theater hope it isn't torn down, but renovated into something positive for the community, reports note.

The Save the Terrace Theater group, with help from the Robbinsdale Historical Society, has been getting a lot of media attention in the past few weeks as it revs up its campaign to save the theater.

In May, David Leonhardt, one of the leaders of the preservation group, asked the Robbinsdale City Council not to act hastily if a request came forward to demolish the building as the group works to identify historic preservation options and future use of the site, city council minutes show.

And last week, the group took another step, presenting the city council with a petition signed by nearly 2,200 Terrace Theater-lovers hoping to convince city leaders not to accept a demolish request if one happens to come along, Twelve TV notes.

But restoring the theater comes at a steep price. Robbinsdale Council Member Pat Backen told the Star Tribune the cost of renovating the dilapidated theater could be upwards of $10 million.

"From a personal standpoint, it would be fantastic to see it come back. As an elected official we'll have to take a wait and see approach,” Backen told FOX 9.

The group hopes to determine if the building is eligible to be named a historic landmark, which would open the door to historic preservation grants and other funding, the paper notes.

The Save the Terrace Group is hosting a public meeting Aug. 5 to discuss the progress the group is making in its efforts, the group's website says.

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