Adaptive Solutions

Advocacy Alert

Disability rights group files complaint against Kannapolis over theater


A Charlotte-based disability rights group has filed a complaint with the Department of Justice over a theater owned by the city of Kannapolis, saying the city has “knowingly violated the rights of citizens with physical disabilities.”

The group, Disability Rights & Resources, filed the complaint against Kannapolis officials Thursday, according to paperwork obtained by WBTV.

The complaint states that the city purchased “several properties, including the Gem Theater [sic]” in October 2015. The group says the city was made aware that the building had Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations and was warned to make sure the violations were removed before buying the building.

According to the complaint, those violations still exist and there is a “commercial enterprise” operating in the building.

The filing states that the Gem Theatre does not have “accessible restrooms” in the building.

The group says when it learned that the city of Kannapolis was slated to buy the building, it had conversations for three months with the city’s ADA Coordinator.

In July 2015, the city of Kannapolis signed an agreement to purchase properties, including the Gem Theatre, as a part of its downtown revitalization project. The sale of the Gem was completed in October 2015.

The complaint alleges that DR&R attempted for the next year to work with the ADA Coordinator, before speaking to the city manager. DR&R said it attempted numerous requests for meetings before filing the complaint with the DOJ.

Friday afternoon, officials with the city of Kannapolis, issued the following statement.

“The City of Kannapolis is committed to the preservation of one of our most beloved and historic buildings, the Gem Theatre, which opened in 1936. It is one of the reasons we have made a significant investment in the City’s downtown core by purchasing 50 acres and 80 buildings. The building, the theatre is located in, was purchased by the City in late 2015.

Since then the City has diligently worked to complete an analysis of the properties purchased. The City has methodically completed inspections, site assessments and market analysis work on every building to understand the condition of each building. Most all of the buildings are 100 years old. Once this step was completed a Downtown Master Plan was developed and approved by City Council in August 2016.

The plan calls for the Gem Theatre to be preserved at its current location. Architects have been hired and are designing ADA accessible compliant restroom facilities. A budget is also being developed to determine the cost for the project. 

We look forward to improving the facility while thoughtfully and carefully preserving the historic Gem Theatre building.”

Published 03/03/2017 – Copyright 2017 WBTV. All rights reserved.