Flint, MI Sees Revitalization and Restoration of Historic Theater

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The Capitol Theatre is being revitalized in downtown Flint, Michigan, serving as an economic and cultural engine for the city and region. Through the restoration of its ornate John Eberson design and upgrades to its facilities, the Theatre will once again be a focal point for the community, presenting national acts and providing platforms for local arts groups. Enriching and expanding the city's arts and cultural resources, the Capitol Theatre will reopen in late 2017 with refurbished theater facilities as well as restored office and retail spaces. The Re-Opening date, and related programming and activities will be announced in the coming months.

Long a vital part of the city's social and cultural fabric, the Capitol Theatre originally opened in 1928 as a vaudeville house and movie palace, serving as a center of arts and entertainment in Flint. The most lavish of Michigan's chain of Butterfield Theatres, the Theatre began to host concerts in the late 1970s, including performances by a range of popular musicians including Ray Charles, AC/DC, John Mellencamp, Green Day, Black Sabbath and more. Closing its doors in 1996, the Theatre sat dormant for nearly two decades, until restoration began in July 2016. Programming at the restored Capitol will include a diverse mix of popular and classical music, comedy acts, film screenings, contemporary and modern dance, spoken word, and theater works that play to the strengths of its intimate auditorium and a new flexible space for small-scale performances.

"The Capitol Theatre was once the community's living room so-to-speak, where residents gathered for shared cultural experiences and live entertainment," said Jarret M. Haynes, Executive Director of The Whiting, one of the lead partners spearheading the Capitol Theatre project along with the not-for-profit Uptown Reinvestment Corporation. "The Capitol's re-opening will deepen the impact of our vibrant arts community and become a resource to foster creativity right here in Flint. We are so proud to bring this treasure back to the city and look forward to welcoming visitors from the city and region for generations to come."

With approximately 100 events of varying sizes projected per year, the revitalized Capitol Theatre is expected to attract more than 60,000 visitors annually. The initiative is one in a series of recent and current projects to lift the city's economy through investments in arts and culture, education, technology, and small business advancement. Recent projects include the modernization and installation of state-of-the-art equipment at Longway Planetarium on the Flint Cultural Center campus, the opening of the Michigan State University School of Public Health and the Flint Farmers Market, which relocated to downtown Flint in 2014 as a year-round resource for local producers and small businesses, tripling its visitors to approximately 750,000 residents annually from across the city and region. In 2015, Hurley Medical Center opened a children's clinic above the Market, creating a health and wellness campus in the downtown area. In October 2016, Kettering University celebrated the completion of the first phase of development of the University's General Motors Foundation Mobility Research Center, which will provide new resources for engineering students and professionals working at the fore of research and development in the auto industry.

The restoration of the Capitol Theatre building, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1985, will reinterpret the Theatre's original vibrancy while upgrading it to a state-of-the-art performing arts venue. The revitalization project will also include the renewal and refurbishment of 25,000 square feet of attached office and retail space within the Theatre's building. Led by a design team comprised of architects DLR Group|Westlake Reed Leskosky, and construction managers The Christman Company, the project will preserve the atmospheric style of the 1,600-seat structure and faithfully restore historically significant elements of the Theatre's original design including:

  • recreation of the building's original 1928 façade, including restoration of terracotta ornamentation on the building's exterior;
  • restoration of the ceiling within the auditorium, which will once again evoke the open skies, enhanced by lighting effects that will mimic transitions from sunset to dusk to the night sky;
  • restoration and recreation of decorative plasterwork and statuary throughout the theater, lobby, and interstitial spaces connecting front and back of house amenities, as well as spaces between the theater and adjacent offices;
  • updating historic lighting and fixtures throughout, including installation of state-of-the-art performance lighting;
  • reproduction of original theater seats;
  • restoration of the historic marquee and blade;
  • enhancement of the Theatre's lighting, acoustic, seating, backstage and front-of-house facilities; and
  • the creation of an additional performance space on the lower level for small-scale, experimental workshops and performances.

The operation of the Capitol Theatre will be managed as a nonprofit performing arts center alongside The Whiting Auditorium, in fulfillment of its mission to present and foster live performance and education opportunities for the city and region's residents. Beginning in 2015, a $37 million campaign was mounted for investment in live performing arts in Flint, including the restoration of the Capitol Theatre and select upgrades to The Whiting Auditorium. To date, more than $33 million has been raised, including major gifts from The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Hagerman Foundation, and support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

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