Dec. 20, 2016 – West Bend, WI – The downtown West Bend Theatre is a hot topic as a proposal was presented at Monday’s Common Council meeting to keep the façade and marquee of the theatre, raze the eastern portion of the building and turn it into an open-air park.
Matt Prescott owns the theatre. He purchased it in May 2012 for $100,000.
When Prescott purchased the building 4 years ago he said, “Nothing like a decrepit old building to get you going,” he laughed.
The property was actually purchased by Prescott and business partner Eric Nordeen.
In 2012 Prescott said, “I see the theater as an asset to the downtown. I just wanted to take a chance, control an important part of downtown and see what we can do to make it better.”
Prescott made clear he will keep the West Bend marquee but he does not intend to restore the theater to its historic status. Instead, he simply wants to demo the newer additions inside, hollow it out and get it back to the configuration of the old theater.
“I want to stabilize it, get the roof back in shape and clean it up – so we know what we’re sitting on and see what uses people might come up with,” he said.
During a conversation Monday night, Prescott reiterated his initial thought.
“Plans for the building remain same as it always has,” said Prescott. “Hopefully find the group that has the next life figured out for the building and sell it to them.”
“It was always the plan to stabilize the building, do some selective demo and then hand it off,” he said. “That still remains the plan.”
Briefed on the plan presented Monday by Mike Husar, Claire Rolfs and David Stroik, Prescott qualified it as “definitely interesting.”
“It’s something I could get behind,” said Prescott. “I’m not trying to make a giant moral decision on my end as far as whether the building stays or goes. It did surprise me a bit but the plan has grown on me since they first bounced it off me and it’s an interesting asset for downtown.”
Prescott made clear he has no specific agreement to sell the theatre. “I have said I would be cooperative as they pull their plans together and they may make an offer or they may not but I haven’t done anything beyond having them keep me informed,” Prescott said.
Another proposal to refurbish the theatre is being floated. Prescott said he’s aware of it.
“The two plans are quite a bit different, and tearing the building down or not… that’s something I never planned to get caught between,” he said.
“But it’s not surprising to have different ideas.”
Prescott and Ascendant Holdings own several properties in West Bend including the Baird building, 111 N. Main St., Le’s Bridal & Alterations, 262 N. Main St., and Portrait’s Today, 105 N. Main St.
The theatre has been a “unique asset” according to Prescott.
“Getting a viable theatre plan in place is no easy thing,” he said. “It’s taken a while and a little longer than I hoped to be waiting to see what it’s next life will be.”
Prescott said he’s very happy with the theatre. “It’s stable, it’s in good shape and people are very interested in it,” he said. “Whether something happens now, three months from now, six months or a year from now – it is what it is. I’m just looking to have something good happen for downtown.”
Questioned whether he is looking to profit from the sale of the building, Prescott laughed. “No, not looking to profit I don’t think there’s any chance that could happen,” he said. “Not with the money we have in it. I’m not looking to pass it off for free but I’m looking to move it over at a very reasonable price to start its next phase in the world.”
Prescott said the “future use of the theatre” is the big sticking point.
“Some theatres are really ornate and the refurbishment costs get astronomical,” he said. “That’s not what this theatre is. It could be refurbished with a reasonable amount but what sustains it and how does it operate, is it a charity case the rest of its life… that’s really hard.”
The 2016 assessment for the property is $100,000, with taxes at $1,883.64 and $300 for the Bid Assessment.
Prescott said he is asking $250,000 for the property. “We have a little more than that into it but what we get out of it, who knows,” he said. “It’s more about finding its next life – purchasing the theatre is likely going to be the smallest sliver of any plan.”
There is another theatre proposal in the mix. A meeting will be held tonight to see if that idea can be pushed to the forefront. Stay tuned!