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New owners embark on Granada journey

On a sunny Friday afternoon, The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence (left) hands over the keys for the Granada Theater to the new owners, Charles Gomez and Debra Liddell.

Photo by Jesse Burkhardt.
On a sunny Friday afternoon, The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence (left) hands over the keys for the Granada Theater to the new owners, Charles Gomez and Debra Liddell.

The new owners of the Granada Theater in downtown The Dalles held an open house Sunday that drew a large crowd.

Charles Gomez, who co-owns the historic building with Debra Liddell, said he was gratified with the turnout of 250 to 300 people.

“When was the last time a simple impromptu open house, without anything more than a few sodas and sweets, drew so many folks?” he said.

“The event kicked off at noon, but folks started showing up at 10:30, and even though it officially ended at 3 p.m., they continued arriving until 4 p.m.”

Gomez said there was little effort to “tidy up” the theater in advance of the open house because he and Liddell thought it would be instructive for people to see the theater as it is now to get a “before and after” sense that will allow people to compare its condition now with the anticipated grand reopening in the fall.

Gomez said the number of people who showed up for the open house and Friday’s key ceremony gives him even more optimism the project will be successful. “If this is any indication of future community support, we stand assured of successful attendance at Granada events to come,” he said.

“Our trip (from Illinois) has been beyond our wildest dreams. It has been an incredible few days. Debra and I would like to publicly thank the people of The Dalles for their interest and support, and to send all our best wishes.”

The kickoff for a rebirth of the theater that has long been a landmark, but sat vacant for years, kicked off Friday afternoon with ceremony to presdent the new owners with the keys.

The theater, at the corner of Second and Washington, was built in 1929, and was once part of the cultural center of the community. In recent years, however, the theater has fallen into disuse and has needed upgrading and renovation.

The city’s Urban Renewal Agency purchased the theater in 2010 with an eye toward making it a centerpiece of redevelopment of that part of the business district.

Gomez and Liddell bring expertise to their new endeavor with the renovation of a historic theater in Watseka, Ill.

They paid $60,000 to buy The Dalles theater and

expect to invest as much as $300,000 to restore the building.

Mayor Steve Lawrence led Friday’s public ceremony at the entrance to the theater. About 50 people showed up to witness him handing over the keys.

Kathy Ursprung, a The Dalles native who now works for the Port of The Dalles, was one of those attending at the key ceremony on Friday.

“Like a lot of people in The Dalles, I have a special place in my heart for the Granada,” Ursprung said. “It was a place of many fond childhood memories — so much so that I decided to serve on the nonprofit Granada Theater Foundation in the early 2000s. We wrote grants to repair the marquee and to reroof the building.

“That helped keep the building safe until folks with enough love and capital came along to bring it back to life.”

Timothy McGlothlin, a member of The Dalles City Council, said he too has great memories of going to movies and other events at the Granada.

“Like so many residents of The Dalles, I too watched my favorite movies at the Granada as they were released across our country,” McGlothlin explained.

“I also performed music on stage many times during the history of the building. The sound was marvelous.”McGlothlin said he was told that the building could have been lost eventually if no one expressed interest in taking on the project that would preserve the theater.

“It was a priority for me to be present and witness the rebirth of a landmark that was destined for abandonment and probably destruction,” McGlothlin said.“I particularly enjoyed talking with the new owners, and witnessed their passion for bringing back good memories from the past.”

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