Golden Gate Theatre Reborn as Pharmacy

LA Conservancy, Mothers of East LA glad to see building open to public.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

A historic theatre in unincorporated East Los Angeles that had been neglected and vacant for years, this week reopened as a national retail pharmacy.

The opening of the drug store at the site of the one time theater was not without controversy.  Some eastside residents, led by the environmental activists group, Mothers of East Los Angeles, MELA, were strongly opposed to the Golden Gate Theatre being used as a CVS pharmacy, wanting instead for the property to be as a cultural arts center or charter school.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Teatro Golden Gate Renace como Farmacia y Tienda

MELA members and supporters attended planning meetings to oppose requests for construction permits and a liquor license, and even offered a substitute proposal, created by Barrio Planners Inc., to reuse the building as a theatre and to rebuild another building demolished after the Northridge earthquake. The plan was ambitious, costly and maintained many of the historical elements of the building, but lacked a funding source.

The store’s first day in business was on Aug. 26. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Others in the community, however, cited the need for a business that would create jobs, and said they were tired of the building be closed up and an eyesore in the community.

On Tuesday, MELA Executive Director Diana del Pozo-Mora visited the new pharmacy; it was a bittersweet experience, she said.

“Honestly, I think they did a really good job … of course it’s not what we would have liked to see … but I like what I see,” del Pozo-Mora said.

The quantities of alcohol for sale was not “overbearing,” she added. MELA had opposed the sale of alcohol at the site.

Del Pozo-Mora said the building’s interior was not a surprise because it had been described in the remodeling plans, but seeing it in person, she could not help but wonder what it would have been like if their proposal had materialized.

“The Vega Building is lost … we see a parking lot now,” she said.

Del Pozo Mora said she was at the CVS for an hour and didn’t observe anyone purchasing alcohol, she noted that the new store has a good selection of refrigerated food items. People can pick up a sandwich during their lunch hour, she said.

“I’m happy to see it being utilized, the community using it,” she said.

The theatre feels compact but maybe her perspective is skewed because she was a child when she visited the theatre previously, she said.

County Supervisor Gloria Molina supported the project despite pressure from MELA and community members. Molina said the Golden Gate Theatre is a “good example of adaptive reuse done correctly.”

“L.A. County insisted that the developer, the Charles Company, keep the building’s historic architecture intact – and they did – plus this CVS will provide enhanced patient counseling in their pharmacy. We kept the beauty of the building while bringing yet another retail option to East Los Angeles.We simultaneously brought this vacant building back to life while preserving its historic elements. It’s a win-win,” Molina said in a statement on Tuesday.

The executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, Linda Dishman, plans to visit the theatre in the near future, but noted there were several proposals presented over the years to demolish the building.

“The LA Conservancy is pleased CVS was willing to work with the theatre and not demolish it,” Dishman told EGP.

The Conservancy’s goal was to retain the building’s listing in the National Register of Historic Places, and it does retain its listing, she said.

Dishman said she was glad the building is still standing and it will be become part of the community. “Hopefully people will come in and start asking questions and become more interested in historic preservation,” she said.

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August 23, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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