Marcus Center plans improvements to outdoor public spaces, performance areas

Will be completed over next three to five years [PHOTO GALLERY]

The grounds would be opened up to create a more prominent veterans memorial.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:10 pm

The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts today unveiled plans for a “complete re-imagining” of the outdoor public spaces on its downtown Milwaukee campus, along with a host of interior renovations and upgrades.

The new vision for the campus coincides with the Marcus Center’s 50th anniversary 2019-20 season.

“Over the last 18 months, the Marcus Center has engaged in a strategic planning process with a broad cross-section of the community to develop a vision for the campus that will lead the Center to another 50 years of success,” said Paul Mathews, president and CEO of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. “We’re proud to reveal that new vision, which will create an even more open and accessible gathering place for the entire community, while establishing a solid financial foundation for the Center’s future.”

The first phase would involve creating “Community Grounds,” a park-like setting for the community in front of Peck Pavilion, which will include expanding the plaza, installing new water fountains (replacing the fountain at the corner of Water Street and Kilbourn Avenue) and establishing a flexible “great lawn” for events, which will require the removal of numerous trees. The center’s war memorial dedication will be relocated to the plaza for greater prominence on the campus.

Inside, Uihlein Hall would undergo a renovation, including performance hall improvements, new aisles and seats, increased ADA seating areas, enhanced acoustics, upgraded sound and lighting technology and stage enhancements. Todd Wehr Theater would also get an upgrade, including renovations to lobby areas, restrooms, dressing rooms, back of house areas and the addition of a new west RiverWalk entrance.

Other additions would include adding a new permanent outdoor café on the RiverWalk, renovating the Bradley Pavilion, creating a new exterior terrace and enclosing the third-floor outdoor garden area to provide year-round rental space.

Plans also call for installing new clear glass on the Water Street exterior entrance and replacing all exterior hardscape surfaces. A new donor lounge is also planned to overlook the Community Grounds and the city skyline.

A final cost estimate for the project hasn’t been determined yet, according to Heidi Lofi, vice president of sales and marketing for the Marcus Center. The project is expected to be funded primarily through private donations, along with about $10 million in capital funding that is included in the Marcus Center’s 10-year agreement with Milwaukee County.

The improvements are slated to be completed in phases over the next three to five years. The first phase is set to begin in spring 2019 and be completed in time for the start of the 2019-20 season.

The Marcus Corp. also recently unveiled plans to rebrand the Intercontinental Hotel, located on the block adjacent to the Marcus Center, as “Saint Kate,” an independent arts hotel. The hotel renovation is expected to be completed in mid-2019.

“The Center is excited to work collaboratively with the Marcus Corporation in the creation of a multi-block area and programming strategies that will serve as a true destination for Milwaukee,” said David Marcus, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts board member.

The Marcus Center retained HGA, CG Schmidt Inc. and Schuler Shook Theater Consultants to develop its campus master plan.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.

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