The Ridglea Theater’s rise nearly complete

Posted 9:11am on Thursday, May. 02, 2013

An important piece of the Ridglea Theater puzzle fell into place this week.

For as long as Jerry Shults has owned the now-historic space off Camp Bowie Boulevard, the Dallas-based businessman has been dogged by a few persistent questions, chief among them: Where will everyone park?

The number of spaces owned outright by the theater complex was less than 100.

On Monday, Shults answered that query definitively: Patrons of the Ridglea Theater will be able to park alongside it — and behind it. Shults reached a deal with Michael Mallick, who owned the back half of the complex, to acquire the property and with it, the prized parking lot with about 150 spaces directly behind the Ridglea Theater.

Shults, who called the acquisition a “win-win for everyone,” declined to disclose the terms of the deal. Shults did say he was told that for the first time in 34 years, a single entity owns the entire Ridglea Theater complex, which includes all of the office buildings attached to the theater itself, but not the retail village across the parking lot.

While it’s early, Shults says there is a possibility, in the future, that he may construct a parking garage on the lot behind the theater to increase capacity.

Indeed, after more than two years of tortuously slow renovations, the Ridglea Theater is showing signs of life as a music venue.

The historic theater still has no full-time, independent booking agent but nevertheless has scheduled a handful of shows for its impressively restored complex. (A ’70s Flashback Party, featuring Santana and Led Zeppelin tribute acts, was held at the Ridglea on April 20 and was promoted as the grand re-opening.) As the banner at the top of the theater’s website puts it, “We’re Back!”

On May 10, R&B quartet Legacy 4 is scheduled to perform at the Ridglea Theater Lounge. On May 11, the lounge will host the Canadian “rock reggae blues” band Stone Iris.

New Zealand group Katchafire, Maoli and DJ Playboy are booked to perform May 17 inside the theater itself, which Shults considers the first “official” show at the renovated Ridglea. According to general manager Richard Van Zandt, Dallas-based booking agency Island Stage Presents approached the Ridglea about setting up the Katchafire show there.

The rechristened lounge, which sits between the theater and the Gas Pipe shop and sports a new, bright red awning, officially opened for business April 19. For now, the lounge is being booked by a familiar Ridglea Theater face: Wesley Hathaway. Live music is being scheduled primarily for Friday and Saturday nights.

Elsewhere in the Ridglea complex, construction work has begun in earnest on the space directly behind the Gas Pipe, which was originally intended to be the site of the relocated Moon. That plan collapsed after a deal between Shults and Moon owner Chris Maunder fell apart in early 2012.

Van Zandt couldn’t confirm when renovations would be complete, but said it would be far less challenging and time-consuming than renovating and restoring the Ridglea Theater itself.

Shults estimates the club will hold between 300 and 400 people, and he hopes to have it open sometime in the next two months. Shults also says that with the start of construction on the as-yet-unnamed club, the Ridglea Theater would be pursuing national booking agents to help fill the main room.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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