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Neglect of Naalehu Theater has some seeking restoration

HAWAII ISLAND

Neglect of Naalehu Theater has some seeking restoration

HILO >> Residents of the southern part of the Big Island are trying to save an old theater that used to host live performances before it was left to sit vacant for more than a decade.

The Naalehu Theater was constructed in 1925 by the Hutchinson Sugar Co. The property is now owned by the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation’s 300 Corp., the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports.

The theater is in need of a new roof and other repairs estimated to cost about $150,000.

“It doesn’t have too much time left,” said Naalehu resident Glen Winterbottom. “It’s going to be a big loss if it goes, and it’s not necessary to let it go.”

The theater was previously scheduled to be considered for listings on both the state and national historic registers during a regular meeting of the Hawaii Historic Places Review Board. But Alvin Awaya, president of 300 Corp., sent the state historic preservation officer a letter in 2005 stating the company “respectfully objects” to the listings and would request a contested case hearing if the listings were not rejected.

With few options left to save the dilapidated building, Winterbottom has turned to the Hawaii County Council for help. In a letter to the editor, he suggested the Council remove the theater from corporation ownership or force the owners to restore the building.

Joe Demoruelle, who managed the theater from 1980 to 2006, said the theater has sat abandoned for 11 years, “and boy, you can really tell.” He described the situation as “demolition by neglect.”

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