Reopening the Tower Theater could ignite the redevelopment of North 27th
Street in Milwaukee, but the cost of the project makes it a tough play.
The SOHI District
> , which
represents the area south of Highland Avenue, wants to attract a theater
troupe to use the space. But the building, built in 1921
> , has been vacant for more
than a decade and will need dramatic improvements before it can be used
for rehearsals or other events, said Keith Stanley, SOHI District
"I think the cost is the main issue," he said, adding, "It
could be something that turns the corner for the district."
The SOHI District is trying to bring new development to 27th Street
between Highland and St. Paul avenues through streetscape improvements,
police cameras and efforts to attract businesses.
Establishing arts communities is a proven way to bring companies to an
area, Stanley said, and there's room for production space and
offices in the building.
"We've seen places throughout the country that are in the
same position we are in use art as a way to promote commercial
revitalization," he said.
A little more than 10 years ago, Milwaukee County bought the Tower
Theater with a cluster of buildings that includes two towers now used
for county offices, said Jack Takerian, county director of facility
management. The county doesn't use the space, he said.
"There have been some theater companies that have contacted us over
the years, interested in the space," he said. "But nothing has
Tower's previous owner, Family Hospital, ripped out many of the
seats to make room for a cafeteria and erected walls for offices,
Takerian said. The seats must be replaced and the walls removed before
it's a theater again, he said.
"Their thought process," he said, "was the theater was an
open space for them to do a variety of different things."
The county never planned to use the space as a theater, Takerian said,
but welcomes the SOHI District's help in trying to find a group to
use the space.
"That partnership with SOHI Keith and his group is
essential to turning that development around," he said.
Stanley said his group is just starting to hunt for a theater troupe and
doesn't expect the project to turn over quickly.
"It's a unique building," he said. "I would hate to lose
it, but you never know how things are going to pan out."
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]