Shepstone Consults for Sherman Theatre

A professional planning and research consultant is hired for the Sherman Theatre project.

Reviving Milwaukee’s historic Sherman Theatre is more than just a dream; it’s a project with tangible steps and goals. Yet, the project needs a serious and viable business plan in order to move forward. It was for this reason that the Burleigh Street Community Development Corporation (BSCDC), which leads the theatre project, sought to add to its diverse team of stakeholders, a professional planning and research consultant. Through a very competitive selection process, which considered candidates not only from Milwaukee but around the country, the BSCDC decided on Thomas Shepstone and the Shepstone Management Company.

The Sherman Theatre revival project is part of a strategic plan adopted by the BSCDC five years ago. “It has been on front burner for a long time, and is now coming to fruition,” said James Hiller, current Executive Director of the BSCDC, founded in 2000. Various groups of neighbors, community activists, and City of Milwaukee agencies have worked individually and collectively since the 1990’s to revive the Sherman Theater’s glory days and, at the same time, give it a 21st century makeover.

Made possible with a grant from the Helen Bader Foundation, the hiring of Shepstone Management Company for the Theatre project provides a crucial element. Shepstone will work alongside the team of community leaders, funders, fund-development professionals, artists, consultants, architects, and non-profit leaders in covering all necessary bases to re-open the Sherman Theatre.

Thomas Shepstone and company come with a large portfolio and diverse areas of expertise. In addition to working on other arts-related projects in the past, Shepstone Management Company has also been hired for projects involving Environmental assessments, land use planning and zoning, market research and analysis, transportation, housing, economic development and traffic studies. Shepstone has represented both private and municipal clients all across the country.

One of Shepstone’s earlier projects also involved arts-based economic revitalization in Oil City, Pennsylvnia. “This is the birthplace of the oil and gas industry,” he said, “but it had fallen on hard times. We worked with local officials, business leaders and the arts community to craft a strategy of using the arts as a basis for bringing events and investment to historic downtown structures and creating economic activity. It worked very well and the Sherman Theatre project offers similar opportunities.”

Shepstone emphasizes the need to look at the theatre’s neighborhood—Sherman Park—in the context of a larger, Milwaukee market. The question is: How can the theatre best appeal to both neighborhood residents and those from other parts of the city (and beyond)? Whatever the answer, the Theatre provides the neighborhood a great opportunity, Shepstone says, to tie into the rest of the Milwaukee economy.

While studying similar projects throughout Milwaukee, such as the Rep and the 10 Street Theater, Shepstone has determined that there is a niche open for the Sherman Theatre to fill. Its size and its capacity as not only a performing arts center but a movie theatre and studio space would make it unique to Milwaukee.

Shepstone is also specifically studying management styles and will make recommendations for the Sherman Theatre. “It comes down to creating a management program with real incentives to succeed,” says Thomas Shepstone. The goal is to have a fully-functioning, dynamic arts facility which benefits the neighborhood and is managed with enthusiasm and care.

According to Thomas Shepstone, “it all starts with goals and measurement.” With this in mind, his company gives us reason to be optimistic that the dream of a revived Sherman Theatre will become a reality.


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