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Lear Theater ownership to be transferred to City of Reno

By Bob Conrad
The Lear Theater as it sits in June 2020. Image: Jeri Chadwell

The dilapidated Lear Theater on Riverside Drive may soon be owned by the City of Reno. City Manager Doug Thornley told This Is Reno the city is in negotiations with Artown to transfer ownership.

“Artown has not been able to preserve the Lear, but rather than have it be demolished by neglect, we’ve been working on a way to preserve it,” he said. “It’s an important and historical place in our community.”

Terms of the transfer have not yet been finalized, but Thorney said that, once it’s in the city’s possession, a request for qualifications to make it a usable building again will be issued.

Thornley added, however, that it is unlikely to remain just a theater. Commercial space, or some way to generate revenue, will likely be needed. He said tax credits, private funding and grants could play a role to revitalize the building.

Thornley said the intent is to “make it a thriving place in our downtown along the river.”

Artown was in negotiations with a nonprofit to improve the property, but negotiations soured.

Randi Thompson in 2018 railed on Artown’s management of the Lear after negotiations broke down. She was on the board of the Sierra School for Performing Arts, the nonprofit in question.

“Artown has operated rent-free in the small red house [near the Lear], while the Lear has continued to deteriorate,” she said.

In June last year, it was revealed that expensive apartments were planned as part of a way to make money on the property. Developer Ken Krater was then involved in those discussions but nothing ever materialized.

Preserve Nevada early this year protested those plans. Former Governor and U.S. Senator Richard Bryan, a Preserve Nevada member, said the organization had misgivings about plans for the Lear.

News of the transfer to the City of Reno was first announced by Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus in her email to constituents. 

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