There may be a second act for Pontiac’s once grand Strand Theatre

Pontiac’s Strand Theatre, a 1920-s era theater darkened since the mid-1980s, is the object of a major investment and revitalization project and one of several developments underway in a downtown that’s lost most of its residents and businesses.

The theater renovation, which is funded by at least a $7 million in public investment, is a partnership between West Construction Services and the City of Pontiac and is the recipient of historic tax credits aimed at protecting historic structures and using them for economic revitalization.

The city owns the 1921-Renaissance style entertainment house on North Saginaw. Renovation is scheduled to to be completed in 2014.

West Construction Services is in experienced historic preservation and architecture and is owned by Kyle Westberg. He is developer of the $20-million Lafayette Place Lofts on North Saginaw, down the street from the theater. The lofts development in the center of downtown is taking tenants this month just weeks after ground floor retail tenants opened their doors.  Lafayette Market, a fresh food market, caterer, cafe and takeout business that opened just before Thanksgiving, and Anytime Fitness.

“I feel strongly that through our partnership with the City of Pontiac, the Strand will be restored to its original glory,” Westberg, CEO of West Construction Services, says in a statement announcing the public-private partnership.

“We are passionate about working to revive Pontiac’s wonderful downtown, and with our track record of successful historic projects we are excited about restoring this historic landmark and providing the community with a venue for creative and performance arts.”

The Strand was one of several booming theaters in downtown Pontiac’s theater district and the only one to survive. The plan for the Strand is to bring back live theater and musical performances, show films and host community and private events.

The theater has been vacant since 2004, when previous renovation plans – also in the tens of millions of dollars – failed to pan out.

“The Strand is a long standing treasure in our community and we are excited to partner with an organization that has the best interest of our legacy and community needs in mind,” Mayor of Pontiac, Leon Jukowsk says in the announcement. “The team at West Construction has a proven record of excellence through their various investments in Pontiac. The community will reap the benefits of their work with increased community resources, services and now entertainment.”

Pontiac City Council President Lee Jones says a theater rebirth is an “opportunity to once again become one of the premiere meccas and showcase what this magnificent structure was built for,” and Louis Schimmel, the emergency financial manager appointed to run the financially crumbling city, says the attorneys and accountants have worked for months on with West Construction in order to determine not only if it could “successfully complete the project, but to also make sure it could be finished with the proper financing.”

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Corinne Petras, spokesperson, West Construction Services and Push22