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HPRB approves concept of converting historic Takoma Theatre to residential use

A rendering of the proposed Takoma Theater revamp

The front of the Takoma Theatre, spring 2008

A plan to turn the historic Takoma Theatre's vacant building into 20 residential apartments is poised to move forward following a September 26 Historic Preservation Review Board meeting. The HPRB approved the overall concept for residential use. Many residents had long advocated that the building, the only intact free-standing theater left in the District,  be transformed into a cultural arts and education center.

The current proposal would restore the theater's historic façade while adapting it for modern use. Exterior modifications – including an addition, new windows and door openings and dormers – would be made only on the sides and back of the auditorium. 

At the HPRB hearing, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 4B02 Faith Wheeler presented an ANC resolution asking for modifications to the design. The ANC also requested a ruling that the revised design – with recommended changes – be returned to the HPRB for approval so that the Board and community could comment before the plan is finalized.  The HPRB's Anne Brockett told Elevation DC that the Board so ruled and that the ANC would be provided with the revised design before it went back to the Board.

Built in 1923, the Takoma Theatre served as a movie house until 1980. Three years later, local businessman and playwright Milton McGinty purchased the Classical Revival-style building at 6833 4th Street NW in what is now the Takoma Park Historic District. Lisa McGinty Toppin, daughter of the property owner, heads McGinty Toppin Enterprises, which is working with Cunningham Quill Architects to repurpose the theater building.

The current development plan is the third plan to be reviewed by the HPRB.  Previously, the Board recommended denial of proposals to demolish the building entirely in order to build a large office building and to demolish the auditorium and construct a residential tower behind the lobby and office block. 

Loretta Neumann, the president of the Takoma Theatre Conservancy told Elevation DC that the Conservancy had tried to accomplish two goals for the neighborhood and the city: to save the historic theater building and to revive the theater as a community cultural arts center.  She said that she was very glad to have accomplished the first goal, but very sad that they had not achieved the second.

The Conservancy, a non-profit organization formed in 2007, has advocated the acquisition, renovation and redevelopment of the theater as a professionally managed community-based cultural arts and education center.
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Related Project

  • Takoma Theatre
    6833 4th Street NW
    Washington, District of Columbia 20012