From the West Bend Daily News this morning:
Members of the West Bend Cultural Alliance, the organization hoping to buy the vacant theater at 125 N. Main St., met Thursday night to rehearse what steps need to be taken to reach that goal.
John Sancomb, who led the meeting in the absence of President Nancy Storrs, said a plan needs to be drawn up that will satisfy the city’s Common Council and the Downtown Business Improvement District — both of which have shown support for the project — and will be attractive to possible donors.
Thursday night was only the second time the Alliance has met since becoming involved in the plan to renovate the theater and refurbish the now-defunct bridge into a usable span over the Milwaukee River, providing pedestrian access to parking across the river.
“We need to have a clearer vision of what the theater can be,” Sancomb said.
Kevin Zimmer, who initially proposed restoring the theater, said a study was done by an architectural firm, but “it was a very grandiose plan that included using additional buildings,” something Zimmer said he doesn’t think should be part of the plan.
You might remember that this came to a head last month when the city was moving ahead with a plan to tear down the Bridge to Nowhere – a defunct enclosed pedestrian bridge over the Milwaukee River. The folks who wanted to renovate the West Bend Theater insisted that the bridge was critical to that renovation and got the city to keep the bridge. The city agreed after the BID put up the money to tear down the bridge in the event that the theater renovation never comes to fruition. The city put a time limit on these plans and told the group that they have to have an approved plan and (I think) broken ground by this time next year. If they don’t, then the city will call in the money from BID and tear down the bridge.
That was a month ago. Since then, the Cultural Alliance has only met a couple of times. The only thing they have agreed upon is that the seats in the renovated theater should be removable. That’s it. They can’t agree on the final vision. As far as I can tell, they still don’t even have a plan to fund the renovation. In a project of this size and scope, a year (less than a year with the time needed to get city approvals) goes very quickly and it appears that they have frittered away a month already.
It’s disappointing. We would all like to see the theater renovated, but it’s beginning to look like the effort is stumbling. Unfortunately, if they don’t get their act together, West Bend will go through another controversy next year when the city moves to tear down the bridge and the Cultural Alliance pushes for more time.