A $1.8 million project to renovate and reopen the long-closed Avalon Theater in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood began recently. The project, which has been planned for years, could be completed in time for the theater to open in May.
“We’ve started work on the exterior,” said Lee Barczak, the owner of the Avalon Theater. The work that is under way includes roof and exterior masonry work, he said.
Barczak, who is also the president and founder of Greendale-based Morgan Kenwood Advisors LLC, also said he is in the process of signing contracts with contractors to do the interior work for the project.
Barczak bought the theater in 2005. His plans to remodel and reopen the theater, which closed in 2001, were delayed when funding sources dried up during the Great Recession.
“We had a project ready to go before (the Great Recession),” he said. “That put everything on hold.”
The building, located at 2469-83 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., was built in 1928.
“It’s actually in quite good shape as far as the structure goes,” Barczak said.
But it needs significant interior upgrades. The redevelopment project will create two movie theaters, one with 240 seats and the other with 70.
All of the interior infrastructure and utilities will be replaced. The project will also include a new kitchen, new concession stands and new bathrooms.
The theater will have a bar that will serve food that movie-goers can have served at their seats. Tables will be built into the seat rows.
The Avalon Theater will show first-run films, Barczak said.
Last year Barczak formed the Neighborhood Theater Group and acquired the Times Cinema at 5906 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee and the Rosebud Cinema at 6823 W. North Ave. in Wauwatosa, after those theaters had financial problems in 2011 and were closed after Madison-based AnchorBank foreclosed on the properties.
Barczak said he has worked to improve the relationship between the Times and the Rosebud and Hollywood and is now showing first-run movies at those theaters.
“We hired a professional booking agency,” he said. “They’ve worked with us to reestablish our position and credibility.”