Restoring a Community’s Historic Theatre

The one-screen Old Greenbelt Theatre, originally built in 1938, is located within the City of Greenbelt, Maryland, a federally-planned community developed as part of the New Deal era. The City Center, which includes the Old Greenbelt Theatre, was declared a National Historic District in 1997. The City of Greenbelt selected GTM Architects as the design firm for the Theatre’s restoration process to preserve its historic significance to this community.

GTM maintained the structure’s Art Deco style while updating the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and providing handicapped accessibility. Maintaining the original fabric and character of the theatre was a priority and entailed restoring the original exterior ticket booth, replacing aluminum storefront doors with new wooden doors, and exposing the lobby’s concrete ceiling which revealed a hidden Art Deco pendant that was upgraded with new indirect lighting.

The outdated concession stand was replaced with wood cabinetry with metal accents, solid surface countertops and modern equipment. The original terrazzo floors were repaired, walls refinished to match the original paint colors, and curved soffits with stainless steel trim were added to complement the building’s origins. The restrooms were also expanded, updated with accessibility features and improved with new tile wainscot, stainless steel partitions and metal vanities with solid surface counters.

Finally, the projection room was modernized with digital equipment featuring assistive listening and close captioning to accommodate the visually and hearing impaired. The project was successful in maintaining the rich history of the building while updating the facilities for all to enjoy and allow the theatre to continue its tradition as a cherished part of the Greenbelt community.



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