Having obtained all the necessary approvals, work has finally begun on the long-needed restoration of the old Georgetown Theater. While the end result will not satisfy those pining for a return of an actual theater, the vision being put forward is nonetheless positive and will hopefully spark a revival of that stretch of Wisconsin.
For those unfamiliar, the theater was purchased from the Heon family by Georgetown architect Robert Bell. Bell is about as perfect a custodian for the landmark property that you could imagine. Even years before he bought the building he was spearheading efforts to restore the legendary neon sign. Now that he does own it, his vision for the property and the block around it can come to fruition. What’s that vision? Bell lays it out in a letter posted in the window:
The most immediate changes you’ll probably notice will be the removal of the ugly formstone (or Dura Stone as Bell calls it) facade. The plain stucco facade will be restored. And the neon sign will be repaired and restored as well, with the original company that built it doing the work.
The building will be used for as-of-yet unspecified mixed use. Interestingly Bell holds out the possibility of a book shop. As GM has written before, there is an effort to bring a Politics and Prose branch to Georgetown, and the theater property was one possible location. But from what GM understands, Bell’s purchase made that outcome less likely (he would require too high a rent) but maybe something can be worked out.
Beyond the theater, Bell has a vision of widening the sidewalk and introducing sidewalk cafes. And he hopes to turn the alley behind the theater into a mini-Cady’s Alley. These last two goals are perhaps the most ambitious (and unlikely). But if Bell can show success as saving the theater building and providing a new spark to that stretch of Wisconsin, he might be granted the slack needed to accomplish these last goals.