A historic Detroit theater is getting a new lease on life, thanks to $1 million in city and state loans.
The Michigan Strategic Fund has awarded $750,000 to a development group working to transform the Woodward Ave.'s now dilapidated Garden Theater into a performance, retail and conference center, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Wednesday. The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. approved an additional $250,000 from the Detroit Casino Loan Fund to assist with the redevelopment effort, which will cost an estimated $12.3 million.
The project has also met the requirements to receive a SmartBuildings Detroit grant to make the structure energy-efficient.
"This project will strengthen midtown Detroit and act as a catalyst for a viable residential neighborhood by redeveloping an obsolete building into a vibrant entertainment venue," MEDC president and CEO Michael A. Finney said in a release.
The Garden Theater, designed by architect C. Howard Crane (also responsible for Orchestra Hall and the Fox Theater), was one of the largest theaters in the city outside the downtown theater district when it opened in 1912. But the building fell into decline in the 1960s, according to the CinemaTreasures.org, even operating as an adult film venue called the "Sassy Cat" for a time. In the early 2000s, the building briefly became home to the aptly-named Bittersweet Coffee House.
Once renovated, the 32,505 square foot structure will be renamed the Woodward Theater and will feature a performance venue that can seat up to 1,300 people. The theater upgrade is the third phase of a larger mixed development project in the neighborhood, the Woodward Garden Block Development, that includes an office building and a parking structure.
"It’s a great day," said George Stewart, managing partner for Woodward Theater LLC, the development group behind renovation. "It shows what you can do in Detroit when you get all the right parties committed to a project."