VOL. 118 | NO. 129 | Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Linden circle theater
Former Theater Gets New Lease on Life
Church to build headquarters, revitalize Downtown block
The Daily News
From movies to music and now to the ministry, the
78-year-old ramshackle building at Somerville and Linden has a new owner and is
getting ready for a new life.
The building, which had served as an upscale cinema and a
night club before falling into disrepair, soon will become the new headquarters
for a church denomination with more than 30 local congregations. Former Church
of God in Christ Bishop David Grayson is renovating the vacant building and a
few of the surrounding storefronts on Somerville Street for New Day Church
International and David Grayson Ministries.
This project has really created a lot of interest, said
Tony Barrasso, the propertys previous owner.
Redeveloping the block. Grayson
bought the nearly 20,000-square-foot former theater from Barrasso
in May, along with a few surrounding properties, and renovation work began about
a week later. Grayson isnt sure when construction will be completely finished
on the church, but contractors and volunteers are working on the facade now and
hope to have it done by the end of September, he said.
Grayson, who broke away from COGIC earlier this year to form
the new church, said his plan is to ultimately develop the whole block, from
307 to 323 S. Somerville, for use in his ministry.
If youre looking at the property, from the far left corner
right to the end of the theater is what we purchased, Grayson said. New Day Church
International will be holding meetings, conferences and worship services there,
and each of the former stores will be encompassing part of the ministry.
Today, Chancery Court Judge D.J. Alissandratos
will hear a motion to enforce injunction and for civil contempt brought against
Grayson by COGIC leaders.
Chance encounter. David
Grayson Ministries Inc. purchased the property at 319 S. Somerville from Barrasso for $100,000, according to The Daily News Public
Records Database, www.memphisdailynews.com. A warranty deed for the property
was filed June 10.
Grayson initially became interested in the property for his
church, which currently meets at 3320 Austin Peay Highway, after visiting a
Salvation Army site across the street from the vacant building.
Walking away from the site, he noticed a for sale sign on the former theater.
Ironically, the churchs current home in Raleigh is also a converted movie
theater the former General Cinema. The church purchased the property in 2001
and opened at the site in 2002.
So the Downtown property struck a chord with Grayson.
I was interested in the building mainly because of its
location and the size of the auditorium, which can house approximately 1,000
people, Grayson said.
Rich history. Barrasso, a professional musician for nearly 50 years, said
his interest in the property began in the 1980s after he began purchasing a
collection of neighborhood commercial properties to prepare for retirement.
In its first incarnation, the building housed the Linden
Circle Theater, which boasted the first Panorama screen in Memphis and the
second such screen in the nation; at one time, local groups wanted to renovate
the building to its former movie theater status. The theater later became the
Linden Circle Lounge, which Barrasso described with a
laugh as something akin to the set of a Federico Fellini
Barrasso purchased the theater and
surrounding properties in 1988, later selling it to an investment group that
wanted to develop the property into a major night club. That idea never got off
the ground, however.
New life. Now, Grayson
has a slew of plans for the site, from administrative offices to space for a
pastors study to a nursery. He also mentioned the possibility of turning one
of the smaller buildings next to the church into either a restaurant to serve
the nearby Medical Center or a clothing and pantry giveaway site.
The church also is examining options to purchase land for
additional parking near the building, and inside, workers are building a small
auditorium within the current auditorium to hold regular services, Grayson said.
The larger auditorium would be for various conferences we
would have, Grayson said. Theyve already done the demolition in there, taken
down the ceiling and put a brand new roof on, and theyll begin working on the
interior very soon.
Broad mission. Grayson
emphasized the broad reach of his church, which will offer a number of
community activities and events for young people at the new location.
This is not going to just be for a local congregation to
meet in, Grayson said. This will be the headquarters of the denomination, and
well do mission work from this building.