City reviews Suburban World renovation

Credit: Submitted image

City officials may require the “Suburban World” letters to stay on the theater marquee permanently at 3022 Hennepin Ave., even after a high-end retailer moves in. The signage requirement is on a list of conditions under consideration by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission, which is reviewing the project.

The HPC decided July 23 to continue mulling the proposal at a future meeting. Commissioners asked the architect for detailed lighting plans and refined ideas on the front windows and storefront entry.

DJR Architecture owner Dean Dovolis said the Suburban World’s twinkly sky would remain, complete with the “cloud machine” — a projector shines white mirrored light across the ceiling, rotating slowly to mimic the motion of cumulus clouds.

“It’s a beautiful backdrop for retail activity,” said Dovolis.

The proposed restoration of the Suburban World Theatre would create a flattened floor for retail space, surrounded by a brass railing for circulation around the perimeter. The “floating” floor could be removed in the future, Dovolis said.

“We’ve found a way to allow the building to evolve in uses over time, yet preserve the theater,” he said.

Dovolis described the developer Elion as a Florida-based real estate development fund with projects in seven states, such as a condominium complex in Palm Beach. DJR is working with Elion on several other projects, including a public-private partnership to build a City Hall building in North Dakota.

“I took them to Minneapolis, showed them some ideas, and we came across the Suburban World,” Dovolis said. “They said, ‘We love this.'”

At the recent HPC meeting, former theater owner Don Driggs protested the plans. He said the lobby and theater should be fully preserved for their original use.

“People say the theater fell on hard times,” he said. “I want to dispel that notion.”

The theater closed two years ago, but Driggs said he still receives several rental requests a month, ranging from film crews to marriage proposals.

“There is no reason it can’t be restored exactly as it was,” he said.