Guadalupe city officials are close to achieving historic designation for the Royal Theater more than 80 years after it opened under the ownership of Japanese immigrant Arthur Shogo Fukuda, with revitalization plans for the building also in the works. 

A virtual hearing between the city and the state's Office of Historical Preservation regarding its placement on the National Register of Historic Places is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 21, according to Tom Brandeberry, president of nonprofit Los Amigos de Guadalupe.

Designation as a historic place would preserve the historic value of the theater as well as open up more grant and funding opportunities for the city associated with the property.

The meeting marks a triumph for Guadalupe leaders who have been pushing for the past year and a half, with the help of Provenience Group Inc., to attain historic designation for the theater, which has sat largely vacant for 20 years.

Royal Theater conceptual 02

Conceptual art for the redesigned Royal Theater in Guadalupe depicts the planned addition of a 5,000-square-foot, three-story performing arts center onto the back of the existing theater building. This additional building would allow for a green room, classrooms, meeting spaces and an industrial kitchen. 

Fukada was forced to sell the Royal along with several other theaters in the mid-1900s before he and his family were interned at the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas, marking a major historical moment for the city's Japanese American community.

"As a property type located in the Japanese enclave of Guadalupe — owned, built and managed by Japanese Americans for both their immediate community and their neighbors, the building is a tribute to the many past and present Japanese American citizens who played a large role in Guadalupe’s history," Brandeberry said. 

Prior to the January hearing, the Guadalupe City Council will meet on Dec. 14 to discuss revitalization plans for the theater involving an upgrade to the existing building — within the requirements of California Historical Building Codes — as well as the construction of an adjacent 5,000-square-foot, three-story performing arts center. 

The performing arts center is planned to feature a green room, classrooms, meeting spaces and an industrial kitchen, as well as a plaza, outdoor amphitheater and parking lot to the south side of the building.

The city also will apply for up to $10 million in grant funds through the U.S. Economic Development Administration's Travel, Tourism & Outdoor Recreation program to finance the project. 

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As part of the application for the competitive grant, the city must survey businesses within and beyond the city's boundaries to judge the economical value of the project for the area. 

"The design team has been working with a stakeholder group made up of community members who have voiced an interest in the theater and its history," Brandeberry said.

The Guadalupe community has witnessed various efforts to reopen and establish new uses for the theater over the years, including a proposal from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center in 2015 to purchase and restore the property which never came into being. 

Royal Theater conceptual 03

Conceptual art for the redesigned Royal Theater in Guadalupe depicts the planned addition of a 5,000-square-foot, three-story performing arts center onto the back of the existing theater building.

Despite sitting vacant, the theater's marquee has continued to serve as a billboard displaying messages about community happenings, and in the past was known to host many local events as well as movie screenings. 

Community members are encouraged to submit letters in support of the historic designation to be read aloud during the Jan. 21 hearing, Brandeberry said.

Santa Barbara County currently holds 16 state-designated historic landmarks. The Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara is the only theater in the county to have received the designation. 

The agenda for the Guadalupe City Council's Dec. 14 meeting at 6 p.m. will be posted online at ci.guadalupe.ca.us. Residents may attend the meeting in person at City Hall, located at 918 Obispo St., or view a broadcast of the meeting on Charter Spectrum Cable Channel 20.

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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