It was a snowy and cold winter day in Pullman last year when Kristin Lincoln and Tracie Brelsford stepped foot into the near century old building on Pullman’s Main Street.
“I remember standing on the marquee and thinking, I’m going to walk in here and there are going to be rats and things falling down and the whole place is going to be a disaster,” Lincoln said. “And then we walked in and it wasn’t. At all.”
Lincoln and Brelsford are part of a group that is working to restore the Audian Theatre, an old movie house situated on Pullman’s Main Street. It is part of a larger trend of development in the area with the new Naughty Dog Coffee Shop opening up next door and Evolve on Main under construction.
The Audian Theatre originally opened in 1930 and served as Pullman’s movie theatre for decades. In the early 2000’s when the Village Center Cinema opened up across town, the building was shut down and has remained that way since.
One major reason that the space has stayed dormant is the leasing situation in the area. US Bank has leased most of the block, including the Audian Theatre as well as a parking lot, from a family living in Spokane. When Lincoln’s group originally approached the bank about redeveloping the Theatre space, they were quoted at $12,000 a month.
Lincoln then decided to get in contact with the family in Spokane and figured out that the lease with US Bank will be up in a few years. Discussions were positive on opportunities for a new lease on the Audian and Lincoln is hopeful that a deal will be figured out in early 2018.
The project has achieved even more significance with the recent cuts to the Washington State University Arts Department. Lincoln had originally planned to partner extensively with WSU Performing Arts but after the cuts said that they need to refocus a little.
“For us, we are looking at it as an emphasis to show that WSU may be willing to cut performing arts but the city of Pullman is not,” Lincoln said. “It is very important for us to be able to show this community that there is still support for the Performing Arts and that now more than ever, we need this facility.”
If all goes well Lincoln says that they want to try and re-open the Theatre in five years at the earliest. She says that despite the building’s old age and inactivity, the architecture is still intact and a building upgrade from back in the 1990’s alleviates some of the concerns around redevelopment.
The Audian project is far from the only new development taking place on Main Street. Right next door, the Naughty Dog Coffee Shop opened its doors over Dad’s Weekend.
It is a quaint shop with coffee cups lining the walls and small tables on the right side to encourage a sense of closeness with the other person at the table. Steven Mislosky, the general manager of the store, is at the forefront of the operation.
“Steam it and pour in whipped cream. Put some sprinkles on top,” Mislosky instructs his coworker as they craft one of the drinks on the menu.
“We wanted to do a self operated dog wash but they did not allow us to do that. So we found this space and came up with the cafe idea and wanted to keep it dog friendly and pet friendly,” Mislosky said.
The shop has performed well in it’s opening week and Mislosky is hoping that Evolve on Main, the new apartment building two stores down, will bring even more people in. He says he is excited about projects like the Audian and Evolve that could bring more traffic through the shop. Overall he says that Pullman has a lot of perks downtown for developers.
“Everything is easy to walk to. There is a great bus route system so even if you don’t have a car you can get down here fairly easily,” he said. “Really it’s a sense of community. No one [store owners] is really rude to one another.”
That sense of community has been echoed by the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and it’s Executive Director Marie Dymkoski.
“In the last year and a half we started the Town Gown collaborative…It was an opportunity for leaders from the city, from business and from the university to come together and talk,” she said. “We are also creating a downtown association with the businesses downtown. Many of the business owners haven’t even met other business owners two doors down from them.”
This communication has lead to new activities downtown like music on Main Street and more events could be on the way.
There are still many challenges to developing in downtown Pullman. Dymkoski cites a transient atmosphere with many people coming and going, especially college students who leave when they finish school, as a challenge for businesses.
But she also sees Evolve on Main as a needed shot in the arm for downtown with a large influx of residents when the apartment building opens in fall of 2018 and she is excited about the prospects of a revitalized Audian Theatre.
“I think it would be so amazing. I know it’s crazy but I think of Manhattan in New York and thinking about Broadway and how driven people are to go to that area,” she said. “The downtown businesses want to be known as an arts and entertainment district.”
Within the next five to ten years, Pullman could have a much different look to greet people as they enter downtown and developments like the Audian, the Naughty Dog Coffee Shop and Evolve on Main are playing a big role in the change.
Introduction: Introduce the Audian Project.
Body: Continue on the Audian Project and transition to Naughty Dog Coffee Shop.
Conclusion: Bring in the perspective of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and Pullman’s outlook.
Marie Dymkoski (Pullman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director)
Kristin Lincoln (Audian Project Head)
Steven Mislosky (GM of Naughty Dog Coffee Shop)
Contacted via Naughty Dog Facebook Page