Standing sentinel over the intersection of Third and Atchison streets in Riverbank, the Del Rio Theatre marquee has looked out over downtown traffic since the 1940s.
Whether or not it remains is in question as a change in ownership of the historic building is in the offing.
The site, two separate buildings, actually, features store fronts and restaurant space in a single story building that also hosts the marquee. Next door, seemingly attached, but not really, is the two story theater building that also has store fronts along Third Street. The way the walls are decorated, at least at ground level, it looks like a single structure.
Most recently used as a restaurant next door to the auditorium, the big room was last used as a community theater, by both the Riverbank Community Theater and Rio Arts organizations. It hosted stage productions, art shows, gospel shows, dinner theater and rehearsal hall.
Before the city’s redevelopment agency bought the property, the hall was used for bingo. In 2006, the RDA acquired the facility in hopes of turning it into a downtown creative arts center.
When the RDA finally did a structural analysis of the building, it found problems with the roof supports. With the concrete walls including columns that held up the arch roof supports, the investigation found about half of them were no longer seated on their corresponding columns.
The city was forced to condemn the buildings, fearing the taller of the two might fall onto the restaurant/store fronts. Since then, it has been used to store excess city property.
One of the final acts of the RDA was a vote to demolish the buildings, hopefully to rebuild modern facilities on the site. Considerable effort was expected to be made to preserve the iconic sign and marquee on the corner. Before that could happen, in 2012, the governor did away with redevelopment agencies up and down the state. A Designated Local Authority was created to dispose of the property and manage the bond debt from the RDA.
Since that time, the DLA has been trying to sell the site, along with the former Reed’s Automotive next door.
A potential new owner is in the wings, according to Marisela Garcia, Riverbank Finance Director and DLA finance official. She said the buyer was presently doing his ‘due diligence,’ investigating what it might take to either demolish the buildings or attempt a preservation of the marquee structure, finding out if it was feasible. After that, she said, if he makes an offer, it would enter into a 30-day escrow period, possibly beginning as soon as mid-February.
While some have foreseen the demise of the meaningful symbol of downtown Riverbank, others cling to hopes that it can somehow be preserved, restored or modified to remain.