Bayou City

Old Heights Theater Could Become a Music Venue Soon

According to a report today in Guide Live, an entertainment/events site owned by The Dallas Morning News, the owner of Dallas' historic Kessler Theater is on the verge of closing a deal to buy Houston's Heights Theater and could have it open by early next year.

Edwin Cabannis took over the Kessler, built in 1942 in Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood, about six years ago and has since turned it into one of the Metroplex's top destination music venues. But with other venues like the Bomb Factory opening up and the ever-increasing amount of festivals in the area, Cabannis decided “we have found our niche in the market,” he said. So instead of trying to find a bigger venue in DFW, he opted for branching into a different city; after considering Tulsa, Little Rock, Fort Worth and Austin, among other cities in the region, Houston won out.

"Houston was always on the short list because of Dallas' proximity to Houston and because if its size," Cabaniss said. "I found myself going back to Houston often."

The deal isn't quite finalized yet; Cabaniss noted he still must work out a deal with the Houston Planning Commission. But if his proposal goes through, he added, he could close as early as early next month and spend the next few months renovating the building.

"We're on the five-yard line, not over the goal line just yet, so let's not go popping any champagne corks," he said.

Back in April, the Houston Business Journal reported the Heights Theater was up for sale, with the price tag set at $1.9 million. It was was listed as a residential property, and the agent handling the sale noted the sellers hoped to preserve the historic value of the building, which originally opened in 1929 and most recently housed the Gallery M Squared art space.

“I'm doing my best to contact businesses that would want to make it a theater or gallery or restaurant or something like that, but we also wanted to list it as residential for someone to make it a live/work space,” Star Massing told the Journal.

The Kessler was built in 1942, about a decade after the Heights Theater, and since Cabaniss took it over has been recognized a number of times as the best live-music venue in Dallas; many even say it's the best small to mid-size room in the state.

Between this and the construction of Pegstar's new White Oak Music Hall (scheduled for completion next year) and impending changeover of Fitzgerald's from the Pegstar team to incoming GM/current sound engineer Lauren Oakes this fall, the market for live music in the Heights is about to be hopping. Whether Houston audiences can fill all these rooms is another question, but don't bet against a lot of full houses in the near future.
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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray