Hundreds of Whitefish Bay residents have signed a petition urging officials to reconsider their current proposal to refurbish and reopen Fox Bay’s abandoned theater.
Officials are considering giving developer New Land Enterprises one of their largest grants to refurbish the Fox Bay Theater Building in a three-stage phased plan. The proposal includes plans to renovate third-floor office space, lease street-level retail space and find a new operator for the abandoned cinema.
New Land is requesting $773,000 from the Downtown Incentive Grant program to fund the first two phases of the plan. If awarded, these funds would not be used to refurbish the theater. However, if a grant is awarded for the first two phases, that will not prevent Whitefish Bay from helping the theater with a future grant application.
Village President Kevin Buckley said he supports the petition because it shows “tremendous enthusiasm” for Fox Bay Theater.
“A future theater project is top priority, period. Having the theater operational is critical to having a vibrant business district of Silver Spring,” he wrote to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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According to the petition:
“There is real mechanism and opportunity to return this iconic, glorious, historic gem to the people of Whitefish Bay – if we act now. One concept sees the Village doing something big and bold and buying up New Land and developing the business Jewel in WFB; another is for citizens to set up an NFP to run the theatre.”
“By signing this petition, you are telling the CDA and Village Board to save our precious TIF money to explore all options for the community to develop the Fox Bay Theater building.”
As of Wednesday, more than 500 people have signed the petition, including Village Trustee Jay Balachandran. “I’m signing this because, as the village trustee, I want to emphasize that we are all committed to the preservation of Fox Bay and recognize the importance to our community,” he wrote in the petition.
“I believe the grant application is appropriate given the commitment we received from New Land,” he added.
Village officials had about three hours of public discussion and another six hours of closed session to consider the proposal.
The Community Development Authority will continue the discussion at its August 16 meeting at 6:00 p.m.