Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:12 pm
An effort to revitalize the historic West Bend Theatre is officially underway after a nonprofit group recently purchased the building.
Historic West Bend Theatre, Inc. purchased the 88-year-old theater at 125 N. Main St. for $250,000 from Ascendant Holdings LLC.
The group has launched a campaign with the goal of raising $1.5 million to $3 million to renovate the theater next year.
The theater opened in downtown West Bend in 1929 and showed films until it closed in 2006.
Previous proposals to gut all but the building’s facade have been met with opposition from the West Bend community, said John Torinus, the group’s spokesperson and chairman of Serigraph Inc.
“The town sort of rose up and said, ‘No, you can’t take down the theater — that’s where I had my first date. That’s where I had my first kiss,’” Torinus said. “It really was palpable.”
Ascendant Holdings, LLC bought the building in 2012 for $100,000, according to state records. Matt Prescott, a West Bend native who founded Ascendant Holdings, stabilized the property and has readied it for reuse, Torinus said.
Torinus said the group envisions the restored theater hosting showings of classic movies, matinee showings for children, musical performances, comedy acts, corporate events and weddings.
“It will be a community, all-purpose facility,” he said.
Historic West Bend Theatre, Inc. has brought on Scott Georgeson, an architect whose portfolio includes restoration work on the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Opera Theater and Schauer Arts & Activity Center in Hartford.
Torinus said the group is raising money through the rest of 2017, with construction anticipated to begin in early 2018. The goal is to have it completed in 2018, he said.
“So far we’ve had nothing but good reception from the community and potential donors,” he said.