The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts revealed its new Campus Master Plan on December 7, representing a complete reimagining of the public spaces and gathering places on the campus, as well as improvements to the interior spaces.

The vision coincides with the launch of the 50th Anniversary 2019/2020 Season. News of the renovation of the Marcus Center follows the announcement in November by the Marcus Corporation, about the transformation of the adjacent Intercontinental Hotel into an independent arts hotel.

“Over the last 18 months, the Marcus Center has engaged in a strategic planning process with a broad cross-section of the community to develop a vision for the campus that will lead the Center to another 50 years of success,” said Paul Mathews, President and CEO of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. “We’re proud to reveal that new vision, which will create an even more open and accessible gathering place for the entire community, while establishing a solid financial foundation for the Center’s future.”

With plans for the hotel renovation to start in 2018, it will align with the Marcus Center’s 50th Anniversary and completion of the first part of the campus renovation.

“The Center is excited to work collaboratively with the Marcus Corporation in the creation of a multi-block area and programming strategies that will serve as a true destination for Milwaukee,” said David Marcus, Board Member of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

Vision Shaped by Community Engagement

In developing the new vision for its campus, the Marcus Center sought feedback from patrons, vendors, and resident performers as well as a broad-cross section of the community. Through their feedback, the Marcus Center developed a campus vision that supported diverse patron and community interests, engaged the community regardless of their past arts experiences and supported long-term opportunities for resident partner organizations and new innovative collaborations.

“The Marcus Center has demonstrated a deep commitment to supporting diverse programming that speaks to our entire community,” said Barbara Wanzo, Executive Director Black Arts MKE. “They have shown that same commitment as they developed a bold, new vision for the campus that will create a welcoming environment where the entire Milwaukee community can gather together.”

Campus Master Plan to Dramatically Reshape Campus, Enhance Community Experience

The Marcus Center engaged HGA, CG Schmidt Inc. and Schuler Shook Theater Consultants to develop the comprehensive Campus Master Plan, guided by the deep community engagement process. The plan will improve, update, and impact the entire Center and secure its vitality for the next 50 years.

“We are thrilled by the new vision for the Marcus Center, which will create significant new opportunities for First Stage as well as each of the other resident organizations,” said Betsy Corry, Managing Director of First Stage. “It builds on the best of the last 50 years, while ensuring a bright future as the region’s world-class gathering place for all.”

Work on the first phase is anticipated to begin in Spring 2019 and be completed in time for the start of the 2019/2020 50th Anniversary Season, with initial priorities will include nine initiatives.

  • Community Grounds: The Community Grounds will be completely re-envisioned to ensure the campus provides an open and inviting park-like setting for the community. The changes include expanding the plaza, installing new water fountains, creating new green areas and establishing a flexible “Great Lawn” to provide opportunities for more community-based events. The entire grounds will be ADA accessible.
  • Interior and Exterior Connections: The design creates greater visual connections between the interior and exterior of the campus by installing new clear glass on the Water Street exterior entrance and replacing all exterior hardscape surfaces. The grounds will include new street-level campus lighting as well as upgraded technology throughout the exterior grounds including digital/video screens to activate the space.
  • War Memorial: The War Memorial dedication will be relocated to a more prominent site on the campus to better honor those who bravely served, and more effectively recognize the Center’s history as a War Memorial building.
  • Donor Lounge: A new donor lounge will overlook the re-envisioned Community Grounds and city skyline, creating new opportunities to serve Marcus Center members and enhance financial support for the Center.
  • Outdoor Café: Build a new fully equipped permanent outdoor café on the RiverWalk to serve as a gathering place for the community and a new amenity along the river.
  • Bradley Pavilion: Renovate Bradley Pavilion and create a new exterior terrace.
  • Todd Wehr Theater: Completely renovate Todd Wehr Theater, including lobbies, restrooms, artist dressing rooms, back of house support areas, technology and stage enhancements, as well as add a new west RiverWalk entrance to improve the function and experience of patrons at the Todd Wehr Theater.
  • Outdoor Gardens: Enclose the third-floor outdoor garden area to provide additional year-round donor, subscriber and rental space.
  • Uihlein Hall: Complete renovation of Uihlein Hall, with performance hall improvements, including new aisles and seats, increased ADA seating areas, enhanced acoustics and upgraded technologies for sound, lighting and stage enhancements; renovation and improvements to all public spaces, including main lobby, ticket office and restrooms; enhancements to all patron amenities, including concession areas, elevators, digital signage and technology; and renovation and improvements to all back-of-house spaces, including artist dressing rooms and support areas for all theaters as well as a refresh of all interior spaces – installing new lighting, carpeting and repainting.

In addition, later phases will include upgraded technology in Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall, Todd Wehr Theater, Peck Pavilion, and the entire complex.

Vision for the next 50 years

With the new campus amenities and programming opportunities, the Marcus Center anticipates that over the next 50 years (2019 to 2069), it will create a total economic impact of $1.7 billion, including by:

  • Hosting more than 115,000 events which will be attended by more than 30 million patrons;
  • Providing unique opportunities for the community by bringing in more than 500,000 underserved children for free arts education programming;
  • Supporting resident partners by subsidizing the operational costs of running each performance by providing more than 1,000,000 volunteer hours.

The vision for the grounds is anticipated to be implemented in multiple phases over the next three to five years.

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Marcus Center for the Performing Arts