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"‘MSO set to acquire Grand Theatre, plans 202 opening of new concert venue" (Milwaukee Business Journal)

December 29,2017

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra hopes to hold its first live performances in the restored Warner Grand Theatre in downtown Milwaukee in fall 2020 after sealing a deal to acquire it as a donation this month.

The long-shuttered, historic movie theater at 214 W. Wisconsin Ave. would replace Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts as the MSO’s main venue to be called the Milwaukee Symphony Center. The project was announced a year ago, and since that time the MSO has been raising funds to pay for it.

Plans are now moving forward. The MSO will acquire the building before Dec. 31 as a donation from Steve and Greg Marcus and The Marcus Corp. The project team also has secured $8 million in state historic tax credits to pay for the complicated restoration of the building. 

“We remain humbled and grateful to our donors and the greater Milwaukee community, whose response to this effort to-date has been amazing,” said Mark Niehaus, president and executive director of the MSO. “Together, we are investing in both the MSO and Milwaukee’s reputation as a vibrant, culturally-significant home and destination.”

Owning the theater will give the MSO more control over its schedule and new revenue streams from facility rental fees, catering and concessions. It is expected to increase the symphony’s annual earned revenue by up to 60 percent.

In addition to the Marcus family’s donation of the theater, the project has received significant support from the downtown business community.

“In addition to the leadership by David Uihlein, Julia Uihlein, and The Bradley Foundation, we are immensely grateful to Steve and Greg Marcus and The Marcus Corporation for donating their ownership of the Warner Grand Theatre to the campaign," Niehaus said. "Moreover, we have benefited immensely from the counsel and stewardship of Steve Chernof of Godfrey & Kahn and Bob Monnat of Mandel Group. They, along with so many others, are demonstrating the incredible impact that can be achieved when the community joins together to achieve a vision such as ours.”

The fundraising effort has raised $93.5 million. The MSO was approved by the state of Wisconsin for over $8 million in historic tax credits, and recently received conditional approval for federal historic tax credits, as well. 

The MSO had originally targeted a fall 2019 opening for the theater. In a Friday announcement, the MSO said the extra year will lead to cost savings on the project.

The Grand Theatre renovation will be a big change to West Wisconsin Avenue. A connected restaurant building at Second Street and Wisconsin Avenue will be leveled to clear land for new theater commons areas, dressing rooms and bathrooms. 

The east-facing exterior wall of the theater will be moved about 30 feet out, creating room for a wider stage and performance area. That means Second Street will be narrowed to two lanes.

Read the full article.

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