Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra looks to transform Grand Theatre

Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-10 20:13:17-05

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is well on its way to transforming a historic theatre into a 21st century concert hall.

The Warner Grand Theatre on 2nd and Wisconsin has been closed since 1995, but the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra wants to bring the theatre back to its former glory as their new venue.

"At the symphony, we feel like we've been waiting for this building and the building has been waiting for us," said Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra President Mark Neihaus.

The theatre still has its 1930s historic charm. The 1,750 seat theatre is decked out with murals lining the walls, original lights, and a high balcony. But more than 20 years of vacancy has caused issues.

"Over time, some of this plaster has fallen," he said.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has been the largest tenant at the Marcus Center for decades. Neihaus said it’s time for a change.

"The Marcus Center puts on a lot more Broadway than they used to," he said. "There's less dates for us."

Another big push for the new location is the city's efforts to revitalize West Wisconsin Avenue.

"In this particular spot, there's us and the Grand Avenue Mall," said Neihaus.

The project would cost roughly $120 million, but thanks to anonymous donors, the symphony is halfway there with hopes to begin playing at the venue in 2019.

"It's really gone from ‘how are you guys going to do this’ to ‘how could you possibly not do this?,’" said Neihaus. 

If everything goes according to plan for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, reconstruction will begin this fall. The Marcus Center declined to comment Tuesday about the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's plans to leave for a new venue.

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