Lots of young folks made it to first or even second base while watching movies in the dark during the glory days of Fort Worth’s historic Berry Theater, located near the intersection of Hemphill and Berry streets. Now it looks like the kids might be going all the way! The new owner of the theater is apparently TCU Froghouses, a company whose mission is written right there on tcufroghouses.com: “We work hard to provide great places to live that are close to the TCU campus.”
A residential company seems like a curious buyer for the 1930 structure. Justin Newhart, historic preservation and urban design planner for the city, said the building is “not locally landmarked.” This means it lacks protections such as demolition reviews by the Historic & Cultural Landmarks Commission, the group that identifies significant historical, cultural, architectural, and archeological resources and recommends to the City Council which ones should be protected.
No new zoning will be required if the theater is converted into a housing unit, said city planning director Jocelyn Murphy.
“Multifamily uses are allowed” there, she said. “It can be up to five stories if [the building is of] mixed use,” meaning if it is a combination of residential, commercial, and/or industrial.
Nearby South Hemphill Heights president Paul Millender said the Berry Theater should be the “centerpiece” of any development along that stretch of Hemphill.
“Redevelopment of the Berry Theater is a big deal,” he said. “Over the years, a variety of uses have been considered, including a music venue, café, independent [movie theater], or playhouse. Any of these are welcome. However, a versatile facility equipped to do all would be ideal.”
Millender and several nearby residents we spoke with said they haven’t heard from the new owner. If the theater is converted into housing, it would be “welcomed,” although the area needs entertainment destinations more than new residences, he said.
Berry Theater isn’t the only one getting renovated these days. The old Haltom Theater on East Belknap Street is under new ownership and being transformed into a multi-use facility to include a restaurant, a theater, and a coffee bar with Wi-Fi. And owners of the Hollywood Theater next to the old Electric Building on West 7th Street downtown are also looking to do something special with the historic theater that hasn’t shown a movie in several decades.