A familiar building adorns the poster hanging at a Southeast coffeehouse. It’s the Huntridge Theatre, despite the java joint being some 12 miles away. Back in the summer of 2013, it seemed the whole Valley was swept up in a crowdfunding campaign to raise money so two businessmen could purchase, then renovate, the derelict but preservable structure. The effort raised more than $50,000 above its $200,000 goal from those within and beyond the Huntridge’s surrounding neighborhoods, establishing momentum. Supporters even successfully gave the structure a fresh paint job some six months later, another display of the community’s commitment to protecting one of the oldest buildings in Las Vegas.
A year and a half later, the project’s prospects seem as uncertain as ever. It has been six months since the Centennial Commission voted to give the city—and by extension, Huntridge Revival LLC, comprising Downtown entrepreneur Michael Cornthwaite and First Friday managing partner Joey Vanas—$1 million to further along an estimated $4 million purchase of the theater from owner Eli Mizrachi. Around the same time, I spoke to Cornthwaite, who had just opened Inspire Theatre and the Scullery and said he’d soon focus on the Huntridge. Earlier this week, he wrote in an email that there’s no news to report.
One wants to hold optimism for the new year, but 2015 carries over an impasse for the Huntridge effort. Hindering the sale—and movement on the entire project—is an unresolved lawsuit by the state against the Mizrachi family to pay back preservation money it accepted to improve the property, which still fell into disrepair. Huntridge Revival previously reported lining up some interested investors, though hardly to the tune of $15 million—the projected cost to reopen the former concert venue and movie auditorium—and Cornthwaite and Vanas can’t make up the difference themselves.
Furthermore, there are a few lingering elephants in the room, including Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who has reportedly held off on getting involved—and, as some community members remarked during last summer’s vote, shouldn’t be solicited every time a Downtown-related project needs funds. There’s also the possibility a prolonged legal stalemate or insufficient investor base could cause Cornthwaite and Vanas to drop their efforts, which could permanently set the project back and discourage a community that has donated money, time and effort to the cause. This isn’t the first time Las Vegas tried to save the Huntridge from the wrecking ball, but it may very well be the last.