Lear Theater

An alarm has been rippling through the local arts and historic preservation community following the news that the Lear Theatre property is up for sale. Is Reno about to lose one of its most historic buildings?

For 60 years the building, designed by noted African American architect Paul Revere Williams, was Reno's First Church of Christ Scientist, but it was bought by Moya Lear, one of the city's most beloved figures in 1998.

It was her idea to convert it into a theatre, her last gift to the community. Others have struggled for nearly a decade to complete the job. Millions have been raised, but unexpected problems and inflation have more than doubled the original estimate of $9 million dollars and much remains to be done.

So, the non-profit Lear Theatre group is putting the land under the building for sale, a 2 tower condo is proposed. The group would use the profits to move the building elsewhere and finish the job.

Mella Harmon of the Nevada Historical Society says moving the Lear would be preferable to losing it, but moving is not the ideal tactic for historic preservation. The context of a building's location in a neighborhood, in this case Reno's most historic and its art's district, is an important value. In this case, the theatre group says moving it may be the quickest, surest way to save it or at least complete its conversion.

One question that may be on everyone's mind at this point is can a building that size be moved. The theatre group says they've consulted with specialists in that sort of work, including those who moved another piece of Reno history, the Lake Mansion to its current location, and their answer was yes.


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