Did You Know?
Facing a yet another delay in its inaugural opening in February 1912, it was reported in the Vallejo Evening Chronicle that theatre manager Gus Cohen had requested “a large sandbox be placed in the center of the hall in which a huge fire would then be built to assist in the drying of the plastered walls and ceiling.”
Formerly with the City of Vallejo
When Vallejo resident Bonnie Robinson-Lipscomb, until recently a senior community development analyst for the City of Vallejo, looked at the Empress Theatre, she saw both a labor of love—and a huge challenge. The Empress was also, in her view, a truly extraordinary opportunity for the City to jumpstart the downtown revitalization initiative, filling the need for a multi-purpose performing arts and resource center, while preserving a special connection to Vallejo’s past.
Although the theatre restoration project had strong grass roots support, the cost was daunting. Seismic retrofitting, ADA compliance, modern building codes and historic building preservation requirements made the project both expensive and intricate.
Fortunately, Triad Communities offered to become involved, and a three-way partnership was formed with the Vallejo Community Arts Foundation and the City of Vallejo. Triad agreed to purchase and restore the theatre and return the title to the City. With Robinson-Lipscomb’s sage guidance and tenacity, Triad was able to navigate the complex building and historic code compliance issues that needed to be addressed.
Robinson-Lipscomb is proud of the City’s role in facilitating the rebirth of the Empress Theatre and thankful for the opportunity to have personally served as one of the catalysts. “Visually, the Empress is beautiful, inspiring and unique,” she says. “When the house lights dim and the neon ceiling clouds are illuminated, there’s no doubt you’re in a very, very special place—just like Vallejo.”