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WB Cultural Alliance develops plan for WB Theatre/bridge project

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There was a lot of energy at Dublin’s Tuesday evening as the West Bend Cultural Alliance gathered to craft a plan to save the bridge and breathe new life into the downtown West Bend Theatre.

“I am really encouraged,” coordinator Nancy Storrs said.

“I’m hearing a lot of wonderful ideas and I’m seeing a lot of synergy between the folks at this table and that bodes well for the bridge and the theatre.”

Ten people attended the meeting and in quick order officers were elected. Storrs was voted president of the WBCA, John Sancomb was tabbed vice president, Patricia McIntyre stepped up as secretary and a treasurer will be named later.

The WBCA, which started in 2011, has a goal of “bringing the arts and the community together” said Storrs and the West Bend Theatre / bridge is one of the key projects at the top of the list.

Some bullet-point highlights from the meeting:

-Kevin Zimmer, a key player in saving the bridge and rehabbing the theatre, gave a brief primer on the history of the effort to date. He provided some background on the critical need for the bridge to stay in order to provide addedparking for the theatre. Zimmer cited Mark Pfaller from Pfaller Architectural Associates who said, “Saving the bridge is number one. There’s not enough parking to facilitate the theatre anywhere downtown. If the bridge does not stay and get renovated it could be a deal breaker.”
Pfaller, who has renovated and restored more than 40 theatres in his career, was hired along with Gene Eggert from Architectural Designs Inc in Delafield to complete a study on what is needed to resurrect the downtown West Bend Theatre.

-Zimmer noted a storm-water study is currently underway; the $7,000 for the study was donated to keep the project moving forward. Those study results and a plan by the WBCA on how it will approach the project will be rolled out during the Monday, Jan. 4 common council meeting.

-“The bridge really drives what can make the downtown theatre happen,” Storrs said.

-Some of the other interested parties involved in the Board at Large and various task forces include Bink Steinbach, Amy Zimmer, Shawn Graff, Ron Gumm, Therese Sizer, Pat McIntyre, and Judy Steffes.

-The immediate goal of the WBCA is to save the bridge. “If you put stairs on and paint it that gives the bridge purpose,” Amy Zimmer said.

– There were some ideas thrown on the table about the future of the theatre including seating for 400, working with the State of Wisconsin Historical Society to roll out its archive of United Artist Films, approaching private schools, theater groups and area musicians.

-Plans for a public open house at the West Bend Theatre are currently underway along with creation of a Facebook page, video projects, and, of course, fundraising.

-City leaders and taxpayers have been adamant that no public taxpayer money be used on the project. Currently the Downtown West Bend Business Improvement District has covered a surety, should theatre plans go south.

-Matt Prescott, with Madison-based Ascendant Holdings,bought the theatre in May 2012. Prescott is expected to attend Monday night’s council meeting. He said he’s encouraged by the “huge momentum” behind the project. “This is great news because the majority of the people connected to the restoration are pretty convinced the bridge is an essential part and certainly the city is in a no lose situation. This is certainly great for the theatre.”

Prescott said the next phase of the project is now starting to take shape. He said he is encouraged by a group of people coming together to officially start the restoration process.

As far as the Prescott commitment is concerned, he said, “I still own the theatre. I’m holding it for now for this effort and I’m fully supportive of it.” Questioned whether he planned to sell, Prescott said that had “yet to be determined.”

“If I do it or my family donates it has yet to be determined,” said Prescott. “I’m fully supportive as is my dad, George Prescott. It would be hard to imagine the Prescotts not involved in some way, shape and form going forward.”

-The WBCA is incorporated under Chapter 181 and is awaiting confirmation from the IRS on its status as a 501c3.

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