The former Strand Theatre in downtown Pontiac is expected to open in the fourth quarter next year following a $20 million renovation and rebranding as The Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Encore Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit with pending 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service, has been named as the theater’s operations and business manager. Bill Lee, former vice president of Celebrity Events Group and vice president of sales and marketing for Olympia Entertainment Inc., has been hired as the nonprofit’s president and CEO.
Pontiac-based TDG Architects is the architecture firm on the project.
The 38,000-square-foot theater, at 12 N. Saginaw St., will feature 838 seats and host events like concerts, live theater, comedy shows, films and community and private events.
Lee, 52, said he was drawn to the job because of the renovated theater’s potential impact on the community.
“When I saw the plan and the vision, I thought, ‘Wow, this is exactly what this market needs,’ ” Lee said, adding that people in the 35-and-up demographic “will pay a premium to see a top act in a small setting.”
It will also include 6,000 square feet of restaurant space, said Kyle Westberg, president and CEO of Pontiac-based West Construction Services, the redeveloper.
The renovation will be funded with a combination of grants, tax credits, private equity and donations, according to a news release.
Westberg said he expects to use federal historic tax credits and funding from the Community Revitalization Program through the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
The project still needs about $3.5 million, a gap that’s expected to be plugged by the end of the year through donations, Westberg said. It is part of an ongoing $5 million fundraising drive, with the remaining $1.5 million going toward startup and operations costs of Encore Performing Arts, Westberg said.
The building was purchased in 2013 by Strand Theater Manager LLC, an entity of which Westberg and his brother, Brent Westberg, own 98 percent. The city of Pontiac owns the other 2 percent, he said.
West Construction is also the redeveloper of the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. department store into Lafayette Place, which features 46 loft apartments, the Lafayette Market and Anytime Fitness at 154 N. Saginaw.
The Strand Theatre has been the subject of proposed renovations dating to at least 1999 after the city took ownership of it following a court battle with its previous owner. None came to fruition.