$35 million historic theatre renovation will depend on tax credits, grants and public donations

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A group of community members want to breathe new life into a historic landmark in the heart of the city.

The 1,600 seat Madison Theatre was built in 1920, and is the last of three original theatres in downtown Peoria.

Lee Wenger is a board member of the Madison Restoration Association, the group seeking to restore the theatre. He said the project will cost between $30-35 million and has been given the green light by contractors that came to assess the building.

“The engineers, architects, restoration people, they say the bones are good, as you say in the business. All you need to do is restore parts,” Wenger said.

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said the city is “encouraged” by the group’s proposal.

“We look forward to hearing more from the developers. This grand historic structure is a key part of Peoria’s history, and redeveloping it would be welcome,” said Urich.

Peoria City Councilmembers Denise Jackson and Sid Ruckriegel said they support the group’s efforts.

“I’m really excited when people talk about preserving and restoring the Madison Theatre … If there’s anything we can do as a city council to help keep that and bring it back to life, we certainly want to begin talks in that direction,” said Jackson.

“It’s really great that we’ve got a private group that has come together to be able to really organize a project like that,” said Ruckriegel.

Ruckriegel said the theatre would fill a void for a space smaller than the 2,000-seat Peoria Civic Center, but larger than the Scottish Rite Theatre, which seats 900.

“Different venue sizes lend themselves to different sorts of artists, different sort of entertainment, and so this provides a piece to that puzzle that its also in a key area that’s sort of in some middle ground,” he said.

Ruckriegel said the project will benefit from historic tax credits, an incentive for the private sector to invest in old buildings.

“Those historic tax credits from both the state and federal side really help fill the gap that otherwise would make a project like this not able to be done,” he said.

Wenger said 70% of the funding will come from grants and historic tax credits. The association plans to raise the remaining 30%, about $10-11 million.

He said the association will be hosting tours of the theatre in August for the members of the public to gauge interest and raise money.

“This is important for Peoria economically and artistically, and for us locals, spiritually. This is the last one, the last grand old lady in the town where it plays in Peoria,” Wenger said.

The dates for the tours are:

  • August 19, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • August 19, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
  • August 28, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

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