Detroit’s historic National Theatre to be scrapped for $800 million development – The Architect’s Newspaper

Detroit’s historic National Theatre to be scrapped for $800 million development – The Architect’s Newspaper

On December 26, commercial developers Bedrock Detroit released conceptual drawings for its proposed incorporation of Albert Kahn’s decaying and vacant National Theatre into their $800 million Monroe Blocks redevelopment. According to The Detroit News, the project would add a 35-story office tower and four mixed-use buildings within the city center.

Kahn designed the Moorish Revival-Beaux Arts hybrid National Theatre in 1911, but the structure was abandoned in 1975. While the building has been allowed to decay, it remains the last in Detroit’s historic theatre district. The ongoing struggle to reverse Detroit’s economic fortunes has led to an increasing appreciation of historic structures within the city, as demonstrated by the ongoing restoration work of the Shinola Hotel, and the Albert Khan and Fisher Buildings. A critical asset behind Detroit’s renewal is the preservation of its architectural past.

Although the development of unused land within the city center has few opponents, Detroit News reports that only the white-glazed terra-cotta facade and gold-domed towers of the National Theatre building will be preserved by Bedrock Detroit. This leaves the rest of the theatre space subject to demolition. Additionally, the facade will be dismantled piece by piece while undergoing restoration, and will subsequently be returned to a location within the Bedrock’s redevelopment scheme.

While Preservation Detroit has voiced support for the Monroe Blocks redevelopment, the organization has expressed concern that only saving the facade compromises the district’s history and  removes an opportunity to restore the existing building within the development.

Bedrock is presently involved in a number of ambitious projects in Detroit, such as the restoration of the iconic Book Building and the development of SHoP Architects-designed 1206 Woodward Avenue.

For now, the restored facade of the National Theatre will only serve as a pedestrian portal for the upcoming project.

Urban Stimuli: A peek inside restoration of Tampa Theatre – 83degreesmedia

Urban Stimuli: A peek inside restoration of Tampa Theatre – 83degreesmedia

As creatures of newness and novelty, it is often the freshest entrant to market that grabs our attention and wallet. Society surges forward on technology like virtual home assistants and self-driving cars, and I find myself as a luddite — increasingly nostalgic for analog, tactile experiences that screens and devices (and Teslas) cannot mimic.

The Tampa Theatre is one such example. As a native, I grew up on field trips to movies and shows at the historic space, quite literally mesmerized by the starry-night ceiling. I was simultaneously charmed and frightened by the dim hallways and corners, thick crimson carpeting, and stained-glass sconces (still my favorite feature). Many before and after me had the same experience, I’d guess.

Thus, it’s no surprise that a multifaceted effort is underway to preserve the theatre for audiences to come, and restore it to its original 1926 splendor.

Phase One will be mostly complete before the new year, and includes major updates like new, wider, more supportive seats across the entirety of the auditorium, as well as new carpet throughout. Gone is the sea of red, replaced with brown velvet and vinyl seating (authentic color choices, as close to the original as possible), and a new stage curtain in blue with pinstripes.

Some money is also dedicated to prudent but mostly unseen updates to the property’s electrical system, basement drainage, and other infrastructural needs.

The lobby will be the first dramatic upgrade you’ll notice. Significant attention has been paid to the wall plaster, its myriad embellishments, and whimsical adornments like gargoyles and bird cages. Forensic paint matching, a slow process of carefully removing layers of old paint, has revealed a vivid palette of greens, blues, reds, and yellows, which enliven the space tremendously.

On the practical side, a new concessions stand is designed for more efficient service and greater visual harmony with the rest of the lobby space. It is sleek and modern — you’ll get your wine faster while you admire the textured metallic cladding.

When I visited, I witnessed workers deep in focus, installing granite café tables in the mezzanine and velvet banquette benches in the balcony. The lobby was thick with scaffolding, upon which technicians were gently adding layers of color to the decorative molding. 

Skilled labor is only one star that had to align in order for the work to begin. Many others have, over the years since the theatre was saved from destruction, spent time, money, or expertise on the renewal effort.

Who is involved? You might be surprised.

Donors & grants

Like many non-profit organizations, the Tampa Theatre Foundation gleans much of its financial backing from small individual donors. For this particular effort, which is $12 million total split in two phases, a few major contributors have sped the fundraising effort and helped theatre leadership secure grants which require 1:1 matching.

Bob Glaser of Smith & Associates donated $250,000. The estate of Richard Redman, interior designer and longtime arts patron, donated $623,000. Tampa Theatre board member Anne Arthur Pittman and her family donated $500,000. And an anonymous donor sent the theatre a check for $100,000.

Grants have come primarily from the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, State of Florida, Hillsborough County, and City of Tampa.

Theatre leadership

CEO John Bell is the cheerful face overseeing on-site work from now until Phase One is complete. He’s ardent as anyone new to the charms of the theatre would be — except he has been with the organization since 1985, longer than I’ve been alive.

He is guided by a Board of Directors that includes David Schwartz and Jack Amor of TECO Energy, Tampa City Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin, former City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena, now a community organizer, and Santiago Corrada, President of Visit Tampa Bay.


For such a sensitive operation in a tight timeline, several expert firms have been retained to help coordinate tasks.

Creative Contractors, Inc. of Clearwater serves as the general contractor; its experience includes work on the Capitol Theatre, Ruth Eckerd Hall, and Bryan Glazer Family JCC.

DLR Group is the architect, having recently acquired firm Westlake Reed Leskosky, both with prior experience in performing arts spaces and historic restorations, across the country. Learn more in a companion piece to this column, a Q&A with Architect Paul Westlake.

EverGreene Architectural Arts is the New York firm specializing in plaster, paint, wall coverings, and other decorative features common to gilded theatrical environments. Their work includes the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Boston Opera House, Fox Theatre in Oakland, Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, and Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle.

InVision Advisors led by Jonathan Moore of Tampa is the owner’s representative.

What’s next

CEO John Bell: “The improvements made in Phase One of our restoration are spectacular. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see greater momentum in our fundraising efforts [to get to the next $6 million goal] as audiences return to more pleasant seating, a visibly refreshed lobby with vivid new colors and detailing, and a completely rethought concessions area.”

While minor work may continue into 2018, theatre programming ramps back up as soon as the scaffolding is dismantled and extension cords are stowed.

Phase Two plans for more infrastructural upgrades and a thorough makeover of the auditorium, of similar scope to work on the lobby. A granular-level analysis of that space, with more surface area, elevation, and decorative features, could cost $2 million alone.

If I could write the check myself, I would. It’s an exceptional space, one impossible to recreate or replace. It also happens to be in Downtown Tampa and easily one of the most fiercely cherished places in our urban core.

For the latest information and showtimes, visit All Shows at Tampa Theatre.

Urban Stimuli is a monthly column in 83 Degrees dedicated to lifestyle and cultural innovations that are transforming Tampa’s urban core. These developments are making our city more exciting, vivacious and praiseworthy for visitors, newcomers and natives alike.

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Woodward Theater won $150,000 national grant to restore its historic marquee – Soapbox Cincinnati

Woodward Theater won $150,000 national grant to restore its historic marquee – Soapbox Cincinnati

When MOTR owners Dan McCabe, Chris Schadler and Chris Varias opened the Woodward Theater in 2014, there wasn’t enough money left after renovations to paint the place. But they didn’t let that stop the grand opening. Instead, they held a “Pints for Paint” event, which with the help of the community, they raised the funds they needed.

This community spirit and participation continues to guide the Woodward, which recently won a $150,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Vote Your Mainstreet contest to facelift the building and restore its original electric marquee.

With the help of the Cincinnati Preservation Association‘s executive director Paul Muller, the Woodward applied for the grant. The national contest pitted the Woodward against 25 other main street communities around the country; it required organizations to get daily community votes in support of their projects.

“The local music community really got behind this and voted diligently, and the other businesses on Main Street were supportive as well,” says McCabe. “The support of our staff, most of which have been with us since we opened MOTR in 2010, was fantastic. They mobilized their friends and people voted daily.”

The grant will allow the Woodward to complete a total exterior facelift, including improving structural elements, updating wiring and sockets, repairing the crumbling plaster rosettes and returning the original lightbulb sign to its 1913 glory. With the help of local metal fabricator Kate Schmidt, as well as an architect and structural engineer, the Woodward’s marquee restoration project should be completed by the end of 2018.

The sign will be constructed of copper, maintaining the original beaux-arts (think pre-Art Deco) aesthetic. “It’s going to be an attraction,” McCabe says. “I expect people to get off the streetcar and walk up. It’s going to be bright and shiny and a destination for people exploring OTR for the architecture.”

Cincinnati is rich in architectural heritage, especially period Italianate architecture, which is part of what McCabe attributes to the community support for the project. “Cincinnati loves its history,” he says.

The permitting process is expected to take some time, but McCabe is confident in the project, which he says will include some fun and surprising touches as they ramp up to the big reveal. Stay tuned to the Woodward’s Facebook page for progress updates and for announcements related to the reveal. “It’ll be worth celebrating,” McCabe promises.

Woman makes it her mission to restore old Booneville theater – WYMT News

Woman makes it her mission to restore old Booneville theater – WYMT News

BOONEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) – The old Seale Theater in Owsley County was once the centerpiece in the city of Booneville. Many people drive by the old building lost to time not knowing what it used to be, but for some who have lived in the area their whole lives, the theater brings back childhood memories.

“The last movie that played at the Seale Theater was the Silver Bullet by Stephen King,” said Molly Turner, who grew up watching movies at the theater. “It played on the marquee for years. The Seale Theatre was the place to be.”

The theater closed in 1985. Now all that remains is a lone marquee letter, the “I” from the movie title “Silver Bullet.” The films and marquee lights are now just distant memories for Molly Turner, but one woman in Owsley County is hoping to change that.

“So one of the things we’re probably going to do it from the get-go id really work on the awning and try to update the marquee,” said Sue Christian, Director of the Booneville Theater Project.

She started the project back in 2010 in hopes of one day buying the old Seale Theater. She wanted to provide something for people of all ages in the area.

“We would be the only county within four or five that surround us that would have a theater,” said Christian.

But for her, restoring the theater would allow her to step through the theater doors for the first time, something she has wanted to do since she was a child.

“Personally, and I’m going to tell you the truth, my family was very poor and never went to the movies,” said Christian. “Those flashing marquee lights, you could just see everything they were playing and it brought a whole new world.”

Although the years have aged the brick, Christian’s vision just might restore the theater back to its prime. She said they have just purchased the theater.

“It’s taken us awhile and it almost seems like it’s really happening,” said Christian.

She said although there is still a lot of paperwork and cleaning to be done, she hopes one day kids will again awe at the flashing marquee lights. She said she hopes to be able to open the theater as soon as 2020.

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