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Milwaukee, WI: Downer Theatre Looking for City to Fund Improvements

Posted on Thursday, December 26th, 2013 5:04 PM

Theater PhotoThe developer that owns the building for the Landmark Downer Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is asking the city for $2.5 million in financing to fund a $30 million development project that would include renovations to the movie theater as well as other commercial buildings, a hotel, and new apartments, according to an article published recently in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Downer Ave. business district on Milwaukee's east side is buzzing with new investment, including the newly reopened Pizza Man restaurant and major renovations to Sendik's grocery.

But concerns are being raised about the future of the 98-year-old Downer Theatre, an anchor for the two-block shopping and entertainment area.

"I think if we lose the movie theater, that would be a death knell on Downer," said developer Joel Lee, whose investment group owns the theater building and several other properties on the street.


To proceed, Lee said, a tax incremental financing district is needed.

He's discussed with city officials a request for about $2.5 million, with the money repaid through property taxes generated by over $30 million in neighborhood improvements.

That new work would include the hotel; a five-story, 32-unit apartment building at the southeast corner of Downer Ave. and Park Place; an 11-story, 97-unit apartment building at the northeast corner of Stowell Ave. and Webster Place; and renovations to the Downer Theatre and other commercial buildings.


The aging Downer Theatre is on a month-to-month lease, Lee said.

Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres, a national art house circuit that operates the Downer Theatre and the east side's Oriental Theatre, wanted a month-to-month lease while Landmark and Lee "figure out a business plan that keeps both of us whole," said Ted Mundorff, Landmark's chief executive officer.

"We certainly love Milwaukee," Mundorff said. "We want to stay in Milwaukee."

But the cinema needs renovations, such as new seats and a modern concession area, Mundorff said. Another possibility would be to convert it to three screens from two, he said.

"Whatever we do, we want to make it more luxurious than it currently is," Mundorff said. The projection equipment was converted to digital technology about a year ago, he said.

Click the Read link below to view the full article.

The Downer Theatre and the Landmark Oriental Theatre are the closest movie theaters to downtown Milwaukee.

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