Over the holidays a curious a discussion popped up over the long dormant Tower Theater on NW 23rd. The landmark is pretty much all that’s left in terms of major hurdles to be overcome as surrounding storefronts are being redeveloped into upscale shopping or hip restaurants and bars.
The theater at 425 NW 23 was originally purchased by a partnership consisting of music promoter Scott Fife, Marty Dillon, Matt Goad and Terri Sadler-Goad back in November, 2005. They initially hoped to have it reopened as offices upstairs, and a live music venue and independent cinema in the theater. But those plans were delayed again and again, the partnership changed, and in recent years Marty Dillon, owner of Party Galaxy, was left to trying to obtain financing for what turned into a far more difficult than realized redevelopment project.
The Art Deco-style property was built in two phases. The storefronts, which include a second floor of office space, were built in 1926. The strip included a TG&Y and C.R. Anthony’s in its heyday and was the city’s premier suburban shopping corridor until Shepherd Mall opened in the early 1960s. The theater was added in 1937, and its neon sign was even featured in the opening backdrop to early episodes of “The Tonight Show” when it first was hosted by Jay Leno.
The theater has been vacant for at least a decade, and its decline dates back much further. Thanks to a grant, the neon sign was fixed and re-lit a couple of years ago. But just a couple of months ago, with redevelopment all around the landmark gaining momentum, Dillon acknowledged he was still struggling to obtain financing.
Enter into this discussion Jonathan Fowler, owner of Fowler Volkswagen and a beloved figure in the local music scene. Could this discussion be the start of better times ahead for the Tower?