The Tower Theatre, the namesake and anchor of the Tower District in Fresno, is for sale, and neighbors are concerned about rumors of who the new owners may be.

A flyer from KW Commercial, a real estate broker, lists the asking price as $6.5 million.

According to buzz on social media, Adventure Church may be the buyer. The church already conducts Sunday services at the theater.

Neither the theater — owned for years by the Abbate family — nor the church responded to GV Wire’s request for comment.

Real estate databases show Tower Theatre Productions as the current owner.

Posts on social media raise concerns about the church’s perceived attitude toward the LGBT community and its potential impact on nearby businesses that sell alcohol.

Could Church Ownership Reduce Tower Visitors?

“Bars and nightclubs can’t move in next door to your church or school for very good reason. Likewise, the reverse should not be true either.”Tyler Mackey, Tower District Marketing Committee

For Tyler Mackey — executive director of the Tower District Marketing Committee — the concern of a church-owned Tower Theatre isn’t about ideology as it is about practicality.

“It would not affect existing conditional use permits for liquor that surround (the theater). But should any of those guys attempt to sell, they would not be able to sell their liquor license, which would devalue their businesses,” Mackey said.

Generally, liquor is not allowed to be sold if it is near a church.

“Bars and nightclubs can’t move in next door to your church or school for very good reason. Likewise, the reverse should not be true either,” Mackey said.

Mackey is also concerned that if a church owned the theater, it would not hold as many cultural and arts events that draw tens of thousands to the Tower District and its businesses.

“Even a thousand church parishioners would not have the same economic impact,” Mackey said.

Not About a Church Nor Ideology

Several comments on social media are concerned about a perceived LGBT-bias the church may have. Some of that may be based on an item found at Gay Central Valley, but GV Wire℠ has not been able to independently confirm the sale or details about the church’s policies.

The Tower District is known for its LGBT-friendly events, including a gay pride parade and the Pride Film Festival. Mackey concedes, though, that the owner of the theater has a right to determine what types of programming or shows are presented.

“If an organization comes in — an entertainment company, a totally legitimate entertainment company — decides that they want to come in and buy the theater, but they’re not interested in hosting Reel Pride … That’s their right,” Mackey said. “We don’t own the theater.”

Mackey said the church’s views are irrelevant. He has doubts the area at the corner of Olive and Wishon avenues is even zoned for a religious institution.

“It actually bothers me very much that this situation has the potential to break the community. This is a moment for unity. This is a moment for the community to come together and unify behind the municipal code,” Mackey said.

Councilman Miguel Arias is aware of the concerns. He says the city is exploring if the church would need a conditional use permit and other factors related to a possible sale.

Mackey would prefer an entertainment company purchase the theater, but said he does not want to stand in the way of the Abbate family selling.

“Financially, this may be the end of their rope. And it’s not for us to block a sale per se, because this could be a desperate … we don’t know what their financial holdings are. We don’t know what their burden is. And we should not be here to judge,” Mackey said.

Mackey has started a Facebook page “Save the Tower Theater.”

11 Responses

  1. Sylvia Alamano

    The Neighborhood Thrift on the North West corner of Wilson and Olive is for sale. It’s in the Tower District but not close to existing restaurants and establishments that have liquor licenses. The Tower Theatre needs to remain a cultural entertainment center.

  2. MGomez

    Social media posters like Derek Payton are sickening. Already, Payton’s twitter page declares “after speaking with other community members and organizers, there are a number of reasons to oppose this takeover of Tower Theatre”.

    Really dude? If you are so concerned about the sale of private property, why don’t you initiate a GoFundMe page and buy the Tower Theatre? Then you can preserve a site that likely has lost money the past decade or so.

    Derek, you wouldn’t be able to make the first property tax payment. Another clueless protestor.

    • Jennifer White

      The article states the theater had its best year ever just before Covid hit. The owner was quoted as saying it was “off the charts”. The building should be sold to the City of Fresno until they can find a more appropriate buyer. The Tower business district is not zoned for a church and will never be. Tower is a money maker for them and will return to that after Covid. The church is taking advantage of the situation and not complying with Covid restrictions like the restaurants must do. The Abbate’s sold the Tower District out by not finding an appropriate buyer to keep this precious historic landmark a beacon for everyone to come and enjoy. $$$$$$$.

      • MGomez

        The Abbate’s can sell the property to whomever they please.

        Would you like your neighbors to have a say in what family buys your house?

        Get real. Stop gas lighting

    • Paul

      The Tower Theater is a historical site on the City of Fresno Local Historic Registry, California Register of Historic Places, and the National Register of Historic Places.

  3. Greg

    The businesses in the area are there because the community wants their services otherwise they will fail; which is the risk a business takes every day. I don’t think a church is any different. So maybe those opposing the Tower Theater being bought by a church are just intolerant of differing political and ideological views.

  4. Brandon

    Need to form a nonprofit fund raiser to buy the Theatre, like Visalia did with the Fox Theatre

  5. Jason Sisk

    We certainly don’t have a shortage of churches or church options but we do have a shortage of entertainment venues in Fresno. This one is also a historical site which currently serves everyone, apparently including the church who supposedly may buy it. If it’s true and we’d lose this entertainment venue and other businesses could be negatively impacted then I’m glad to see folks stand up and weigh in.

  6. Ric

    Could I make a suggestion? If you area truly concerned with this purchase, would you read this statement by the church, and then call Adventure Church at 559-412-4652 and talk to Anthony Flores, the church leader? Wouldn’t it be helpful to engage in a conversation with a person rather than forming a battle line based on assumed prejudices? Relationship begins with conversation. Adventure Church has a heart for the Tower District, and understanding their heart and intention would be helpful, no? We live in a time when everyone lives with their finger on the trigger. How about we start with Peace, and not war?
    “Adventure Church has made the decision to purchase the Tower Theatre as part of its long-standing commitment to serving the community and people of the Tower District. Adventure’s intention for the purchase of the building is to preserve the historic and beloved landmark and keep it from closing. Contrary to reports from City Council Members Esmerelda Soria and Miguel Arias, zoning changes are not only unnecessary, but they have not been requested by the church, ever. Since the start of negotiations to purchase the Tower Theatre, Adventure Church has never intended to cease the theatre’s primary business operations as an event venue. The city was informed of this in a letter sent to the City Planning Department dated December 7, 2020. Because zoning changes are not needed, no businesses are in jeopardy of losing licenses. Once public safety city ordinances allow, Adventure Church intends to outsource theater rental matters to Tower Theatre Productions who have always overseen it in the past. Adventure church will simply reserve the building for its own use on Sunday Mornings and occasional mid-week evenings. Additionally, Adventure Church plans to make the venue more accessible by partnering with non-profits who would like to use it. ‘The last thing the Tower District needs right now is for its namesake landmark to sit empty, abandoned, boarded up and vandalized. That would send a message to the people of our community that the heart of this neighborhood is gone. But we want to spread a message of hope and encouragement that says, ‘the heart of this community is alive and well, the lights are on, and everyone is welcome here.” said Anthony Flores, Senior Pastor of Adventure Church. Adventure Church has been a contributing member of the Tower community since 2010. Adventure Church welcomes all people from all backgrounds. Adventure’s goal is to create a safe place where attendees can experience the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of God. Adventure Church attendees contribute to the economic development by supporting coffee shops, restaurants, and stores on Olive Ave and in the surrounding area, and will continue to do so. “


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