Peoria’s Madison Theater may open its doors again after nearly two-decade closure

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) —Plans are in the works to breathe life back into one of Peoria’s most historic attractions.

The Madison Theater, located on 502 Main St, has been locked and vacated for about 18 years. The theater first opened in 1920 and was once a lively venue, but has found itself at a hollow standstill for almost two decades.

The son of the owners said they’ve been trying to sell the building, which suffered from smoke damage after a 2016 arson, for years and said they’ve finally found someone interested with plans to follow through.

“We’re in a deal now with someone that actually has a plan for the theater and they’re moving along quite well actually,” J.D. Comfort said.

Comfort said those plans include revitalizing the theater into a concert venue and restoring the Main Street portion for retail, bars and restaurants.

He said he preferred not to give the name of the gentleman interested in revitalizing the theater, but said they’ve been in a contract for about a year and a half.

“Our contract expires at the end of this year, but they’ll let us know if it’s a done deal by September,” Comfort said. “If it’s going to go through then we’ll close the deal before the end of this years –2021.”

Comfort said the interested buyer is currently in the process of trying to get the finances, such as tax credits and grant money, for the multi-million dollar project.

“There’s about a 10-step program and they’re on about number 7 as far as getting all of their ducks in a row,” Comfort said.

He said in order to comply with new city codes, the theater can’t be restored to its exact former state, but said he expects it to be a familiar sight. He also said they haven’t dived too much into the construction aspect yet, but said he imagines it’ll take a few years before the project’s completed.

“As far as construction goes I think they would start first on the Main street portion and get that up and running,” Comfort said. “The theater is going to take, I’m guessing at least two years to get that up and running.”

Comfort said he’s excited for the building’s future and said there’s hope the theater’s stage may soon light up again.

“We’re thrilled, you know I think that’s going to be the key to downtown Peoria, the sale and the renovation of the theater,” Comfort said. “When that theater was running, when they had concerts down there everybody in downtown Peoria prospered from it.”

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