News Column

Promoter announces plans for Near East Side music venue

June 20, 2014

By Dean Mosiman, The Wisconsin State Journal



June 20--A music promoter is proposing a 2,000-plus-seat, state-of-the-art venue as part of a bigger redevelopment that could cost tens of millions of dollars and cover most of a block on the Near East Side.

Frank Productions on Thursday announced plans for the 46,000-square-foot music venue as part of a office, housing and parking project by Stone House Development on the north side of the 1000 block of East Washington Avenue.

"We intend to create a space that's both easy and exciting for artists, as well as a venue that the Madison community can support and be proud of," said Fred Frank, chief operating officer of Frank Productions. "We want the venue to become a Madison destination. We're thrilled to be part of the progressive plans in place for this area."

The first phase of the project, which will require demolition of the vacant Madison Dairy Produce Co. buildings on roughly half the block closest to Breese Stevens Field, will have multiple uses on a scale that fits recent city plans for the area, Stone House president Helen Bradbury said.

The project will feature office buildings on the corner of East Washington Avenue and Brearly Street up to five stories on the street stepping up to eight stories in the interior, the stand alone music venue to the east on the avenue, structured parking with about 200 stalls, and 60 to 65 low-income housing units three or four stories tall facing East Mifflin Street, Bradbury said.

"It's a great site," she said. "The East Washington corridor is a dynamic area. We know there's a need for additional affordable housing."

Stone House, which controls all property on the block except a mid-block muffler shop, has not finalized plans for the grassy eastern side of the property, Bradbury said, adding that her company is currently designing around the remaining business but has not foreclosed discussions on a purchase of that site. The intent is to have a private street running though the block east to west to serve the buildings, she said.

The redevelopment would follow major mixed-use projects recently built and approved on the 700 and 800 blocks of the street.

"I'm very encouraged by the continued development and vibrancy of the area," said Ald. Ledell Zellers, 2nd District. "There's a lot left to work out. But my firm belief is that Stone House will be a good neighbor."

The music venue will be "built from the ground up" and will have state-of-the-art facilities for patrons and entertainers, Frank said. The primary function of the space will be to host concerts and other live entertainment, but it will have the flexibility and equipment to host corporate, community events and school events, and private parties.

The preliminary plans include a capacity of over 2,000, with a flexible wall system to reduce capacity for a more intimate experience. There will be a VIP lounge and seating area, expansive dressing room facilities, and offices for Frank Productions' growing staff.

Many acts traveling between Chicago, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities skip Madison because a venue with the right seating capacity and ability to handle stage sets and lighting isn't available, Fred Frank said.

"We think there's a void," he said, adding that acts would find the new venue superior to most found in bigger cities.

"I think it's great," said Rokker, publisher of the Madison-based music magazine Maximum Ink and a member of the citizen group Willy Wash: A Musical Yahara that is pushing for a greater music presence on the city's Near East Side.

"Frank Productions brings in just an amazing amount of artists," Rokker said. "They definitely need venues that are large enough to hold those shows that they're bringing in. It will be great for the East Side to have that kind of venue."

The new venue should not compete much with the 900-seat Barrymore Theatre on the Near East Side, where Frank Productions produces many shows, nor the Overture Center, which has different programming and fewer available dates due to Broadway shows, the symphony and orchestra, Frank said.

"We have a great working relationship with them," Overture Center spokesman Robert Chappell said. "I don't think there's any doubt that the arts and entertainment scene in this city has plenty of room for more venues. Every venue in town has its niche in a way. Overture Hall is home for a lot of local artists, and I don't see them going anywhere. We still have the only Broadway stage in town. I'm excited to see a new, big theater in town. I think it will be great."

Barrymore owner Steve Sperling declined comment.

The venue will likely compete with the Orpheum Theatre, which has underwent a ownership change and where Frank Productions can no longer promote shows, Frank said.

The Orpheum's new ownership could not be reached.

Frank Productions expects the privately funded project to begin construction in six months and be completed in 2015. More information will be released as the developers meet with the neighborhood and begin the city review process, Bradbury said.

Founded in 1965, Frank Productions is a full-service concert promotion company that provides services for live entertainment events in every type of venue throughout the United States. The company has been a sponsor of Freakfest for the past seven years, UW-Madison's Revelry Music & Arts Festival for the past two years, and is curating the talent for the upcoming Yum Yum Fest in Madison'sCentral Park.

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(c)2014 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

Visit The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.) at www.wisconsinstatejournal.com

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Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)


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