a new beginning for the sherman theatre

In the mid-2000s, the Burleigh Street Community Development Corporation (BSCDC), the primary nonprofit economic development agency in Sherman Park, renewed the theater revitalization effort.17 In 2006, the BSCDC hosted an open house tour of the theater complex. At least 100 residents attended the event, filled out surveys, and shared their visions and opinions for how the space should be utilized. The BSCDC contemplated reopening the theater as a performing arts venue, possibly for the aforementioned Ko-Thi dance group. However, by this time the building had been sold to 31st Street Holdings LLC and attempts to re-open the theater were put on hold.

But this was not the end for revitalization efforts. Recognizing the importance of the theater as cornerstone of the business corridor, the City of Milwaukee called for its redevelopment in its 2009 west-side comprehensive plan. In keeping with that plan, the BSCDC renewed its efforts in 2012 to bring the theater back online as a center for the arts (visual, musical, and performing), with space for studios, galleries, and offices.

Many neighborhood stakeholders and segments of the greater Milwaukee Community are involved in this collective effort. The BSCDC has assembled a diverse 20-member stakeholder workgroup consisting of community leaders, funders, fund-development professionals, artists, consultants, architects, and nonprofit leaders. Together, they are developing creative solutions to the project’s different challenges, including site acquisition, parking, historic development issues, and achieving a proper tenant mix. The BSCDC plans to create a new entity, the Sherman Park Arts Council, which will act as a “booking agent” for the Theatre venue once the building has been acquired.

One of the cornerstones of the project will be having the artist and tenants give back to the community. The BSCDC envisions the revitalized Sherman Theatre being an important community hub, with the artists and performers of the Sherman Theatre complex periodically opening their doors and sharing their craft with the adults and children of the community, free of charge.

Because of its size and location, the Sherman Theatre building has the potential to do great things for the Sherman Park neighborhood and surrounding area. In its prime, the theater was a commercial anchor for the area, and it may serve that purpose once again. Indeed, the building’s revitalization could act as a major catalyst for future investment and development in the area. It could also make real the dreams of neighborhood residents who have hoped the building might house a thriving theater once again. And it could become the home to artists of many mediums. It can do all these things.

Stay tuned for the theater’s next act, when the curtain opens once again!

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