The Ritzville Downtown Development Association is a non-profit corporation formed in 2003 by local businesses and citizens dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Ritzville.
Ritzville bases its activities on the principles of the National Main Street Center and Washington State's Downtown Revitalization Services program. The Washington Downtown Revitalization Services program is affiliated with the National Main Street Center, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The foundation of the Main Street Program is preservation of and the management of change in the built environment.
RDDA is committed to sponsoring programs and activities that fulfill the purposes of historic preservation, community education and lessening the burdens of local government.
The RDDA's main focus is within the boundaries of First Avenue on the south, Broadway Avenue on the north, Jefferson Street on the west and Columbia Street on the east, inclusive of both sides of the street.
Ritzville boasts a beautiful downtown area, steeped in history reflecting the cattle and wheat industries. Downtown Ritzville is designated as a National Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places. Record wheat harvests in the early 1900s, plus a steady influx of settlers, fueled downtown construction. By 1900, the first brick structures on most of the blocks in the district were built. The majority of those early structures remain intack and relatively unchanged. Click here to see a map of the district.
Included in these boundaries is The Ritz Theatre building, the art deco 1937 movie house that the RDDA acquired in December 2012. The RDDA is facing nearly $250,000 in upgrades to install digital projection equipment because the motion picture industry is forcing theatres to switch from 35mm film to digital media – an upgrade for the local theatre that will cost $75,000 to $115,000 for digital equipment alone. The remaining funds are needed to update the 1937 electrical wiring, update the sound system, install fire retardant fabric on the walls, renovate the seating, paint, clean, replace neon, etc.
The phasing out of 35mm film is already happening – prior to retirement, Dora Kramer operated the New Ritz Theatre under a lease with the RDDA and could only book movies seven to 10 days in advance, depending on which movies were available in 35mm format.
The Ritz Theatre is not only vital for Ritzville residents, but for area residents as well. People traveled from Lind, Washtucna, Odessa, Harrington and Benge to watch a movie. Visitors who stayed overnight enjoyed an evening at the movies. The streets of downtown Ritzville have darkened even more with the neon on The Ritz Theatre turned off because of the closure in July 2013 due to retirement of the longtime operators.
The RDDA intends to reopen the theatre before the end of 2013 after a summer/fall of restoration, improvements and additions but we’ll need a lot of support from those who love movies and who appreciate historic movie houses like The Ritz Theatre. The RDDA has brainstormed some possible activities and events such as Ritzville Community Theatre performances, school performances, special showings, live concerts featuring local talent, private bookings, Christmas concerts, lectures and more. These are just ideas – the possibilities are endless!