WHITEFISH BAY, WI — Developers are looking to renovate the Fox Bay Theater Building and find a new operator for the cinema with the help of grant funds from the village.
A proposal submitted by New Land Enterprises and GRAEF outlines a three-phased plan that would renovate and fill long-vacant office space on the building’s third floor, fill in street-level retail space with new tenants, and possibly bring a new theater operator down the line.
The first two phases of the project, which don’t involve the theater, are set for discussion Thursday at the village’s Community Development Authority meeting. To pursue the project, developers are seeking funds from the village’s Downtown Incentive Grant program.
The grant program has been in effect for several years now and provides funds for physical building improvements in Whitefish Bay’s commercial areas, according to Village Manager Paul Boening. Projects can have up to 50 percent of eligible project building costs funded by a grant from the village. The grant would be funded in turn by the tax incremental district, Boening told Patch.
For the first phases of the project, developers are hoping to upgrade an existing “tired” facade, modernize the third-floor facade, and fix up the building’s interior. For all that, developers are asking the village for a grant of $773,000. Any grant request over $50,000 requires later approval by the village board. The theater would come in the third phase, and developers asked to hold off on grant applications for it until the first phases are complete.
A new theater operator would offer full-service food and beverage alongside movie screenings, keeping with what the village was once used to, developers said. Further, the operator would leverage the main house theater on the ground floor for live entertainment such as music, comedians and other performances.
“The result will be a new multi-purpose entertainment venue centrally located in the Village that will serve as a draw and destination for not only Village residents but nearby potential customers as well,” said documents submitted to the village.
A cost estimate for renovating the theater was $2.5 million. Developers say it needs a new HVAC system, life safety systems, improved ADA accessibility and a refresh of finishes, fixtures, furniture and equipment.
Developers say the renovation project overall could boost occupancy of the building overall and bring new value to the tax incremental district.