FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The city of Fresno is poised to buy the Tower Theatre, attempting to end the battle over the future of a historic landmark.
It would be a Hollywood ending for people who live in and support the Tower District, named for its iconic theater, after more than 15 months of weekly protests aimed at Adventure Church, which was using the theater for services every Sunday.
The church had reached a deal to buy the property in late 2020, but protests began in January 2021. Tower District residents and supporters came out every Sunday to discourage the sale. They believe the church was operating in violation of zoning restrictions for the Tower District.
Adventure Church got support in their counter-protests from conservative groups, including members of a far-right group called the Proud Boys.
The deal also ran into trouble because tenants at Sequoia Brewing on the western edge of the property asserted a legal right to buy at least their portion of the property before any sale was completed, as allowed in their lease agreement.
They said they didn't get proper notice of the sale and after they found out, they argued the church and theater ownership conspired to conceal the sale then hid the details of the agreement, including the $4.8 million sale price.
Sequoia's owners sued to prevent the sale and an appeals court agreed they had the right of first refusal.
Adventure Church has also sued the theater's ownership.
Fresno city leaders sued to gain access to the theater for a historic preservation assessment and to determine whether taking the property by eminent domain was advisable.
The city also entered into mediation with the other parties and reached a tentative agreement.
The city will pay the appraised value of $6.5 million and sell the Sequoia property to its owners for $1.2 million minus the amount it's already spent on improvements and lawsuits.
The city will also assume responsibility for any lawsuits against the Tower Theatre ownership and/or Sequoia Brewing.
Adventure already has a breach of contract lawsuit against theater ownership, but insiders say the church's purchase agreement for the property expired in March 2021.
The Fresno City council will schedule a public vote on that deal in the coming days.