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Providence Journal,
September 1, 2005
By Karen A. Davis

07 Feb 06: Plans for American Tourister Scrutinized
06 Apr 28: Royal Mill Clock Tower Tolls Again
06 Apr 9: Herb Weiss takes message on the Road
05 Dec 21: 14,500 sf Condo
05 Oct 30: The High Life
05 Oct 10: Jefferson Place goes condo
05 Sep 16: Pearl Street Lofts
05 Sep 1: The old Bomes Theatre
05 Aug 13: Brown purchases Old Stone Bank
05 Aug 11: Providence: Boom or Bust?
05 Aug 9: Taco Truk
05 Jul 15: SBER buys US Rubber
05 Jul 6: Sports Complex
05 Jun 21: Providence Kickball
05 Jun 17: Sasaki presents Vision 2020
05 Jun 16: State fixes Armory
05 Jun 15: Capital Center development
05 Jun 02: Trolley Barn demolished
05 May 13: Downtown BID team deployed
05 Apr 13: New Westin Tower revealed
05 Apr 17: Duany suggests redo public squares
05 Mar 25: Feldco re-negs on affordable units
05 Mar 21: A Better way for Warwick?
05 Feb 27: Interview with Buff Chace
05 Feb 25: 32-story condo tower proposed downtown
05 Feb 21: Developers want to buy Fidas

The sequel for old theater

Residents, city planners contemplate future of moviehouse

A neighborhood cafe. A cultural center. A community space where arts and culture are displayed and celebrated.

There is no shortage of ideas on ways in which a venerable and historic former theater on the city's South Side could be redeveloped and put to use.

City planners are working with a community organization and residents to determine the best use for the Bomes Theater at 1017 Broad St.

Contractors have spent recent days cleaning out the old theater, which had been used as storage by a furniture store, according to Amintha Cinotti, deputy director of the city Department of Planning & Development.

“It is identified as an historic landmark in the area,” Cinotti said. “Historic to the nature of Broad Street.”

While the capital city is often heralded for its diverse cultural heritage and vibrant arts community, residents have complained that seldom is such spirit felt in the neighborhoods surrounding the theater, according to a feasibility report compiled for the Bomes Theater project steering committee.

“The Bomes Theater is envisioned to fill a void in the local community… and be of service to the local community,” the report reads.

In addition, renovation of the theater has been considered one of the key steps in the economic development of Broad Street, Cinotti said.

Built in 1921, the theater was called the Liberty Theater, a brick structure with intricate terra cotta trim.

It was part of the Bomes chain of small neighborhood theaters built after World War I, according to Providence: A Citywide Survey of Historic Resources, by William McKenzie Woodard and Edward F. Sanderson. At the time, silent pictures were a popular form of entertainment.

The owners of the building closed the theater in 1975. Since then, only the storefronts of the 9,575-square-foot structure have been used by small businesses, such as a furniture store.

The building is owned by the Providence Redevelopment Agency, which takes ownership of abandoned properties.

“As it stands now, the inside of the two-story theater is a big empty space,” Cinotti said.

In recent years, the city has worked with Southside/Broad Street, an organization created to guide neighborhood improvement and development, to survey residents and business owners about what they would like to see happen at the theater.

Residents have suggested that the building be converted into an art gallery and studios and a cafe. Others have floated the idea of turning it into a multiuse marketplace, similar to Boston's Faneuil Hall, Cinotti said.

The consensus was that residents wanted to see the building become part of the theater scene and overall entertainment cluster in the city, according to the report.

A preliminary vision statement for the project suggests converting the building into the Liberty Theater Cultural Center, a facility that could serve as a multicultural arts and education resource for the South Side and the entire city.

Under the plan, the center would have space for live theater and dance, musical performances, film and culturally diverse performing arts.
And the center would seek to work in partnership with arts groups, public and private organizations and the community.

In fact, the community, especially the South Side, will be deeply involved in the administration and day-to-day operations of the center, according to the report compiled by ConsultEcon Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.

Plans would likely include gutting the interior and replacing electrical, plumbing, heating and air and sprinkler systems, according to an assessment by the Urban Design Group.

It would also include an elevator and possible third floor.

The cost of renovation is expected to be $2.5 million to $3.5 million. The project could take four years to complete, depending upon financing.

Cinotti said the city plans to have the building cleaned out this fall and to continue working with Southside/Broad Street and community groups to gain support and decide on a development plan.

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