Landmark Bob Baker Marionette Theater to be redeveloped for planned mixed-use complex

Real estate investor Eli Elimelech bought the property in 2013

Bob Baker Marionette Theater (Credit: Getty Images)
Bob Baker Marionette Theater (Credit: Getty Images)

Real estate investor Eli Elimelech will redevelop the Bob Baker Marionette Theater and incorporate it into his mixed-use complex planned at 1345 W. First Street in City West, in the latest shakeup involving a historic LA playhouse, Downtown News reported.

The theater will shutter sometime next year, but reopen in 2020 with new facilities that include a small museum, a workshop and educational space, the theater’s office manager said. A portion of the new development will be built on the site’s parking lot.

Elimelech first purchased the site in 2013 for $1.3 million, property records show. A year later, he announced plans to build a 104-unit apartment complex without any mention of preserving the esteemed theater, sparking outrage among preservationists and Bob Baker fans.

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But in the three years that passed since Elimelech’s 1st Street Properties made its vision known, the theater became a nonprofit organization and a series of negotiations with the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission changed the course of the proposed plan. No construction has begun, and the theater plans to host traveling puppet shows around Southern California while the mid-rise complex is being constructed.

The theater opened in 1963 and was designated a historic-cultural monument in 2009.

Details about Elimelech’s firm, 1st Street Properties, are scarce. The Calabasas-based firm tapped Architag, led by Stephen Albert, for the project, according to a letter filed to City Council on September 2016. [DTN] Natalie Hoberman