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Guadalupe receives federal grant to reconstruct historic Royal Theater

Community messages are displayed on the marquee of Guadalupe's Royal Theater.
City of Guadalupe
Community messages are displayed on the marquee of Guadalupe's Royal Theater.

This week, the City of Guadalupe secured a $4.9 million grant from the federal government which aims to boost tourism in the city.

The money will help with the reconstruction of the city’s Royal Theater, an art-deco building that was built in 1939. When it was originally established, it was a hub for local Japanese laborers to congregate and watch films spoken in their own language.

Now, the Royal Theater is an official National Historic Site, so the building cannot be sold.

Todd Bodum is the City Administrator for Guadalupe. He said the city has been exploring development proposals since 2018 to restore the theater. They had spent about $500,000 to design the plans, but then needed $10 million for construction.

The city applied and received a U.S. Department of Commerce Award for close to $5 million, and another grant from the state for an additional $5 million.

Bodem said the plan is to restore the existing theater to how it looked in 1939, while also making it safe and functional. The city will \ add an additional two-story building behind the theater with green rooms, theater presentations, and places to eat during events.

The U.S .Census estimates that Guadalupe has a population of about 8,500 people, with a 91 percent Hispanic and Latino population. He said the restoration will be an economic driver that will attract people from all over the region to this small city.

“We have an Amtrak that stops here, and I can envision somebody coming from Santa Barbara and say, 'Hey, let's go see some kind of a [show], let's see if Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones is singing on stage and go see him by the train,” Bodem said.

The Department of Commerce said this grant is expected to generate about $11 million for Guadalupe’s economy. It’s also estimated to create 500 jobs, and retain around 170.

Bodem said the city expects to finish the development in about three or four years.

Gabriela Fernandez came to KCBX in May of 2022 as a general assignment reporter, and became news director in December of 2023. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an associate producer on the TahoeLand podcast. When she's not writing or editing news stories, she loves to travel, play tennis and take her 140-lbs dog, Atlas, on long walks by the coast.
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