WEDC investment to help fund rehabilitation of the Third Avenue Playhouse

MADISON, WI. MAY 17, 2021 – The City of Sturgeon Bay is receiving a $250,000 state grant to help Third Avenue Playhouse (TAP) renovate their theater located in downtown Sturgeon Bay.

The Community Development Investment (CDI) Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will support ReImagine TAP, a project to renovate and expand the Third Avenue Playhouse theater.

“A vibrant downtown is vital to a community’s economic growth, and Third Avenue Playhouse plays a key role in bringing more visitors to downtown Sturgeon Bay to enjoy the many amenities the city has to offer,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “This project is the latest example of WEDC’s ongoing commitment to work with communities throughout Wisconsin to enhance their business districts and, in doing so, add to their quality of life.”

The renovation will allow Third Avenue Playhouse to use the building more efficiently, add educational offerings and engage with more members of the community. The project is expected to be completed this fall.

“This is an important project that the city strongly supports,” said Mayor David Ward. “The project grant application had the unanimous support of our City Council. The TAP project further strengthens our arts and performance community.”

Project plans include a new expanded lobby with accessible restrooms, a concessions area, a new theater space, a proper scene shop, dressing rooms, administrative areas and a secure box office, along with additional meeting, classroom and rehearsal spaces. An elevator is also being installed. The façade of the building will be reconstructed with brick and architectural details that will resemble what the building looked like when it was originally built in the early 1900s.

“We are tremendously grateful to the city of Sturgeon Bay and to WEDC for their support of this project. We strive to create opportunities for Door County residents as well as visitors to be engaged in and inspired by the arts,” said TAP Managing Director Amy Frank. “This grant will go a long way in making that goal a reality.”

Energy efficient windows will be installed, and the walls and roof will be insulated to bring the building up to current energy standards. Additionally, the marquee and canopy that were added to the building in 1949 will be restored to their original design.

TAP’s presence in the community and project plans have already sparked an increase in cultural and artistic activity in the area. The adjacent building to TAP was recently renovated and now offers an artist gallery and small music performance space, and the building across the street from TAP is undergoing renovations to become a dance studio. Combined with the major renovation of TAP’s building, the north end of Third Avenue in Sturgeon Bay is becoming a cultural anchor for downtown.

“We know how heavily the pandemic has impacted theaters and performing arts foundations, with many venues forced to shut down,” said state Sen. André Jacque. “This renovation will be a great momentum builder for Sturgeon Bay. People are eager to return to community activities that enhance our quality of life and attract jobs, employers and redevelopment for our area.”

Third Avenue Playhouse was established in 2000 when a group of actors and artists from Door County’s performing arts venues joined with local business leaders and imagined a new theater for Door County. The group acquired the shuttered Donna movie theater and reopened it as TAP, a nonprofit organization that relies on ticket sales, donations, sponsorships and grants for operating support.

WEDC’s CDI Grant Program supports community development and redevelopment efforts, primarily in downtown areas. The matching grants are awarded based on the ability of applicants to demonstrate the economic impact of the proposed project, including public and private partnership development, financial need and use of sustainable downtown development practices.

From the program’s inception in 2013 through Sept. 30, 2020, WEDC has awarded nearly $26.7 million in CDI Grants to 87 communities for projects expected to generate more than $446 million in capital investments statewide.