Bright white letters spelling out Uptown were lifted into the air on Wednesday. The iconic Uptown Theater tower signage is back after an extended vacation. With one exception. They aren’t the same letters brought down for apparent repair back in September 2022. Those historical letters got tossed by the owners, even though they didn’t get permission from the City.
In a report issued by the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development earlier this year, the Armory, LLC’s once planned, but now permanent decision, to replace the historic letters didn’t jibe with preserving historic buildings.
“The applicant’s planned removal of historic sign letters on a landmark that is designated, in part, for the significance of its sign features, is not compatible with the landmark’s designation,” the report reads. “The applicant has not demonstrated that all of the 24 letters are deteriorated to allow for their replacement.”
When Uptown Theater’s consultant Michael Margulies came before the Business, Inspections, Housing & Zoning Committee in July, he appealed that directive from CPED, and told the committee the Uptown letters had already been thrown away.
Can a building owner be held accountable for throwing away a major artifact from a designated historical building?
“Legally, there’s nothing to be done,” Brad Ellis, the City’s Manager of Zoning Administration and Enforcement, said in an interview with Southwest Voices. “There aren’t repercussions at this point.”
On August 3, City Council approved an appeal from Armory, LLC which allowed them to move forward with replacing the Uptown sign. Because of the City Council approval, Armory, LLC is not liable for what was done prior to the appeal. At a July City Council committee meeting, Margulies said the signage would not be ready for another six months, but the new signage was up within a month of that meeting. The new tower signage was designed by Serigraphics.
This is the second historical building that Armory, LLC owns, so this isn’t their first rodeo with preserving historical buildings. The company also owns the historic Armory building downtown which was converted into a music venue in 2017.
According to Senior City Planner Rob Skalecki, who also authored the Uptown Theater CPED summary, the City does not give building owners specific information when buying a historical landmark but owners can look up the historical property guidelines on the City’s website.