News-Press Editorial: The wisdom of updating the Alex

With the clock ticking on a tight construction schedule, Glendale officials this week agreed to spend $750,000 to bring to reality a $4.4-million plan to expand the Alex Theatre, work that was in jeopardy due to a budget shortfall that can be blamed directly on California's lengthy financial quagmire.

The plans for the improvements to the historic performing arts venue have long been in the works. There is an ebb and flow to the theater world, and the Alex sees less activity in the summer and early fall. That's why the first phase of the expansion, which would include a more serviceable loading dock, dressing rooms and elevators, was scheduled to take place between June and November.

But when the state last year pulled the rug out from under redevelopment agencies, including Glendale's, the future of the Alex was in question. City leaders, understanding its importance as a cultural asset, have scrambled to do what they can to preserve the theater's rich heritage and ensure its future. They've laid claim to it in hopes the state won't sell it out from underneath us — although that is still a possibility — and now are gambling that the three-quarters of a million dollars they're ponying up to finish this first phase of the project will be reimbursed. It might be, or it might not be, depending upon the whims of those who hold the state's purse strings.

Some might question the wisdom of spending money on the historic Brand Boulevard property without any guarantee that the money will be returned to city coffers — or even that the city will end up owning the Alex, to which it laid claim following last year's state shut-down of Glendale's redevelopment agency.

It's easily understood that the $750,000 might be put to use elsewhere during challenging budgetary times. But we would argue that the Alex is a treasure of incalculable value and it behooves the city to help improve and keep it as a cultural draw for years to come.

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