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West Duluth theater renovations planned

The West Theater as seen in 2016. (News Tribune file photo)

After decades without a silver screen of its own, West Duluth might be getting its theater back.

Bob Boone, publisher of the Duluth Reader, wants to renovate and reopen the former theater at 317 N. Central Ave., according to filings made to the Duluth Planning Commission.

"It is my intention to build a 'period correct' renovation of the historic art deco West Theater, and as such, we intend to build a replica of the original 1937 marquee," Boone wrote to the commission in an application to build said marquee.

Boone's Paladin Properties LLC bought the property last year for $140,500, according to county records. Boone wrote he has secured up to $100,000 in financing through the city, and "all the rest of the renovation costs are being covered by loans taken out by me."

"If I did not believe that West Duluth deserves an operating theater on their side of town, and their own community 'jewel,' I would certainly not extend this much effort (and risk) to such a project," he wrote.

At a meeting of the Duluth Planning Commission Tuesday night, Boone said: "I started an LLC to buy the building and renovate it into an operating movie theater with small concerts, small plays and a free matinee every week for the Valley Youth Center. I have some experience with putting on concerts. I've put on foreign film festivals, and I've managed an old vaudeville theater in the past."

Historic tax credits that could go a long way toward helping the West Theater reopen may be dependent on the return of the original 1937 marquee, which the planning commission lent its support to Tuesday night. The Duluth City Council will still need to act on that recommendation for a concurrent use permit to accommodate the marquee sign.

"Staff are excited to have this being reused and being a cultural and economic center for the area," said Steven Robertson, a senior planner for the city of Duluth.

No timeline is known for the theater's renovation and eventual reopening.