A plan to renovate and reopen another former Grand Theater, this one at 2917-23 N. Holton Ave. in Harambee, took a step forward on Tuesday as the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development committee recommended approval of the project.
The Grand Theater on Holton is one of the city’s oldest surviving cinemas, having been built in 1911 (with additions in 1927). You can read a full history of it and see photos taken inside last year here.
Of course, there was also a Grand Theater on Wisconsin Avenue that is being transformed into a new home for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
The theater – which most recently housed a church – was acquired as a tax foreclosure by the City of Milwaukee in 2016 and it was listed for sale with requests for proposals issued in 2017.
A group called the Riverwest Investment Cooperative submitted an RFP last June to renovate the building into two theater spaces that can be used for live theater, movies and other performances. The plan also called for "youth programming and summer youth activities."
Ald. Milele Coggs, in whose district the building is located, made a motion to approve the proposal at the meeting, and after testimony from the Riverwest Artists Association’s Ruth Weill, among others, the committee passed the motion.
Riverwest Investment Cooperative initially estimated the costs to renovate the building at about $1.5 million, but recent news reports have suggested the project is now expected to cost about $2 million.
The Department of City Development listed the building at $20,000.
The proposal next moves to the full council on May 30.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.