by Juan Salinas II, Fort Worth Report
July 19, 2023
Fort Worth business owner Rudy Avitia was saddened but not surprised to learn that Berry Theater will be demolished.
He owns The Barber, next to the theater along Hemphill Street.
“The community will lose a part of its aesthetics,” he said.
Mercy Clinic announced July 19 its plans to move forward with the demolition of the theater, which was built in the 1940s. The nonprofit had a community meeting to listen to residents’ input on the theater.
The cost of saving the theater was too high for the nonprofit, according to officials.
“Even potential federal grants for historic preservation would not bring this cost down enough not to pull funding from the Mercy Clinic mission,” Aly Layman, Mercy Clinic executive director, said in a statement.
A demolition date has not been set.
Avitia said he had a feeling the clinic board of directors had already made its decision before the community meeting. The Berry Theater has been listed five times as one of the city’s most endangered places, according to Historic Fort Worth.
Mercy Clinic bought the theater in 2021. The clinic also purchased the three lots next to the theater in 2016, according to a published report. The clinic plans to expand its free clinic to serve more people in south Fort Worth with free medical, dental and spiritual care, Laymen said.
“Mercy Clinic has been a part of the health of this community for a decade. A new clinic facility will show this community many more decades of Mercy,” Laymen added.
A new medical center would be a good thing for the Southside community, Hemphill resident Sonia Gomez said.
The theater began screening Spanish-language movies in 1962, according to Cinema Treasures, which focuses on preserving the history of movie theaters across the U.S. Today the city’s Hispanic population is roughly 35%, according to the latest census data.
Jerre Tracy, executive director of Historic Fort Worth, wished the community had more time to find a solution for the theater.
“It has happened so quickly that those who could creatively resolve this where it is a win-win, probably don’t have enough time to do it,” Tracy said.
Tracy was surprised because she thought the theater would be saved after the community meeting.
“This decision does not connect with the meeting I attended,” Tracy said.
Fort Worth council member Jeanette Martinez, who represents the Hemphill area, told the Fort Worth Report she was disappointed Mercy Clinic decided to demolish the theater.
Martinez wanted the city of Fort Worth to give a historical designation for the theater. This process can be done without an application from the property owners, according to the city’s historic preservation ordinance.
Martinez and other residents floated the idea of making a historic theater into an art center for the Southside community.
“I may not agree with the demolition, but I have faith that they also took any and all options into consideration before making this decision,” Martinez said.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.