By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 29, 2024 at 1:26 PM

NOTE: This post is an updated version of one that initially ran in November 2022.

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater announced Thursday that it will break ground in May on its $78 million plan to build a new theater and renovate its 1988 Powerhouse Theater complex, built in and around the 1900 Oneida Street Power Station.

A groundbreaking is set for Saturday, May 11.

The new Associated Bank Theater Center will become the theater’s main performance space with a flexible configuration, the addition of a fly loft, improved seating and sightlines, improved accessibility and up-to-date production technology.

A new flexible black box studio theater will have more seats, more easily transformable performance space and a new lobby with expanded restrooms, a bar and gathering spaces.

Take a virtual walkthrough in this video:

The Riverwalk will, according to the Rep's initial plan announcement, “be reconceptualized to serve as an attractive space to gather pre- and post-show and for events, receptions and celebrations.”

The center, which will be constructed in the space along Wells Street between The Pabst Theater and the former power station, will also include a grand, open and cascading lobby that will connect all of the spaces. There will also be food and beverage, a gift shop, a donors lounge and an events space.

There will also be an education and engagement center.

The project is slated to be completed in three phrases, allowing the Rep to continue operating during the work.

The Rep had always planned to break ground on the project in May 2024 with a targeted grand opening of the new Associated Bank Theater Center in autumn 2025.

So far, The Rep has raised 92 percent of its $78 million goal, which reflects a $3 million over its initial projection, due to what it calls "inflationary cost increases."

Upon the initial announcement in autumn 2022 the Rep had already received donations of $10 million from Associated Bank and $1.5 million each from Northwestern Mutual and WE Energies Foundation.

WE Energies also donated the Herman Esser-designed Neoclassical Revival power house building for the original conversion project in the 1980s.

The plan was designed by EUA.

“Milwaukee has changed over the last four decades and made impressive investments across the city along the way, and it’s time to invest in another cultural asset – Milwaukee Repertory Theater,” said Chad Bauman, executive director of Milwaukee Repertory Theater, in the 2022 announcement. “Theater transforms lives, and collectively changes the broader community by telling stories that help create our society.

“It’s been nearly 40 years since our organization has asked the community for a major investment in our facilities, but we’ve come to a critical point when Milwaukee Rep can no longer adequately support our growth without jeopardizing our future.

"The Powering Milwaukee Campaign will ensure we’re able to offer programming that promotes equity and positive change, serves as an economic engine for a growing Downtown, and provides critical arts education for children statewide.”

On Thursday, Bauman added, "“We are as excited as ever to break ground on our new facility that will expand our ability to produce and develop new plays, advance our educational impact and create unique opportunities for the community to come together."

Learn more about the plan here.

Here are the renderings:







Theater in the round


Education and Engagement Center



Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.