West Allis — City officials and developers over the last several months have spent considerable time pondering the future of the Paradise Theater, which opened at 6229 W. Greenfield Ave. in 1929.
It is now increasingly possible there could be no future at all.
The city has issued a razing order for the 81-year-old building because of its current state of deterioration.
The building will need to be repaired soon if there is any chance of saving it. It could be demolished as early as this summer if no private or public financing comes through, West Allis Development Director John Stibal said.
Stibal plans to ask the council how the city should proceed. Aldermen may consider how much, if any, public money should be used to salvage the theater.
Memories of the way it was
One of those aldermen, Dan Roadt, said he has fond memories of the theater growing up and would love to find a way to keep it standing.
Roadt is a lifelong resident of West Allis who grew up at 88th and Arthur streets. During his youth, he would often walk with his brothers and neighbors a couple times a month to catch a movie.
"We were always up in the balcony with the troublemakers," Roadt said with a laugh.
But he wonders how many other residents have the same personal history with the Paradise Theater, and doubts a large number of them would support a public investment.
"I would love to save it, but at what cost?" Roadt said. "It's a beautiful building, but it needs a lot of work."
Mayor Dan Devine, too, said he hopes something can be worked out but it will come down how much the city is willing to put into it.
"I'd hate to see it go because it's an iconic structure," he said.
Long after last picture show
The movies stopped showing in 1996, and the theater has struggled to attract a permanent tenant since. The Paradise Family Life Center, a religious group which moved out early last year following a foreclosure, was the last group to occupy the building.
The State Bank of Chilton owns the building and has been trying to sell it ever since. The former owner of the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse in Wauwatosa expressed interest in the building earlier this year, but plans never materialized.
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