After saying goodbye to one Bradley Center, it's time to say hello to another.
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced Thursday afternoon that the former Warner Grand Theater – which the orchestra has been working to renovate into its new home for a couple years now – will be named the Bradley Symphony Center, in honor of Harry and Peg Bradley, after receiving a $52 million naming rights gift.
The venue’s 1,650-seat concert hall will be named Allen-Bradley Hall, after the company – now called Rockwell Automation – co-founded by the Bradley family in 1903, as a tribute to the company’s employees.
The donation, by David and Julia Uihlein, Lynde Uihlein and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, will be used to fund the ongoing work at the 1930 theater at 212 W. Wisconsin Ave.
The Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation also made what the symphony calls, "a significant gift."
Pettit was the daughter of Harry and Peg Bradley, and David and Lynde Uihlein are grandchildren of the Bradleys.
"The MSO and its exceptional musicians represent the very best of the values Harry and Peg held so dear – hard work, determination, and giving of one’s gifts to others," said David Uihlein.
"My grandparents believed deeply in the importance of a robust civil society and the critical role cultural institutions like the MSO have in building vibrant communities. As generations pass from one to the next, we must continue to nurture these institutions as they connect us to the past and inspire us to imagine the future."
Peg Bradley and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation have long been supporters of the MSO, said MSO President and Executive Director Mark Niehaus.
"The Bradley/Uihlein family and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation have generously supported the MSO for decades," Niehaus said. "Over those many years, they have been both tireless advocates and critical partners, pushing our leaders and our board to think and act strategically to ensure the MSO’s future and its lasting impact on Milwaukee.
"We are honored to name the MSO’s new performance home after the Bradley family, whose tremendous impact on the MSO and Milwaukee is immeasurable."
The Bradley Symphony Center is slated to be ready in the fall of 2020 for the MSO’s 2020-21 season opener.
"We’ll be announcing the new season in the next couple weeks," said MSO spokesperson Erin Kogler, "(with) more concert date specifics."
In addition to the renovation and expansion of the theater to allow for a larger stage and for performance support areas, the project, designed by Kahler Slater Architects, also includes a new two-story glass pavilion, an new addition to the north and a renovation of the 12-story Art Deco office building in which the theater is located.
The MSO will house its administration and community education offices, catering facilities, a music library and multipurpose studios in the tower. The complex also includes community, education and collaboration spaces.
The mural Richard Haas painted in 1981 on the east side of the tower will remain and will be refreshed.
The project was announced in December 2016 and ground was broken in June 2018. One of the biggest and most nerve-wracking facets – the more than 30-foot move of the intact east wall of the theater – was accomplished in August.
"Conrad Schmitt and C.D. Smith are wrapping up restoration in the interior of the theater, and the scaffolding will be coming down soon," said Kogler. "The north addition – backstage, restrooms, dressing rooms – is getting framed in and drywall is going up.
"The south addition – the glass building – is in process. The first floor concrete is poured and they are starting on the second story. The east addition – the stage area – has concrete poured and they are putting up scaffolding to start on finishes."
Kogler said that Mother Nature has lent a hand in the progress.
"We’ve had really great weather, and (contractor) C.D. Smith’s team has been on track, on time, and on budget," she said. "We’re looking forward to selling season subscriptions for 2020-21, and I can’t wait for everyone to see the new Symphony Center in person."
Here are some photos taken inside while the project was underway in October 2018.
More than $128 million has been raised so far toward the MSO’s $139 million goal, which includes $89 million for the theater, plus money to an endowment, pension and bridge funds.
There are further opportunities to support the project, including additional naming opportunities. For details, visit mso.org/grand.
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.