Three More Broadway Street Theaters Could Be Returned to Their Former Glory

The developers behind a new high-rise are thinking about downtown’s future and its past

Downtown’s skyline will have a striking new addition when a 40-story, modern-looking high-rise at 525 Spring Street replaces the parking lot currently in the space as plans are put in motion over the next few weeks—and maybe some spruced-up buildings from the past, too.

Developer Joseph Hellen’s Downtown Management group plans to renovate three theaters—the Roxie, Cameo, and Arcade—that sit adjacent to the lot at 518-534 S. Broadway Street. Hellen purchased the theaters more than 30 years ago, but has been unable to settle on a use for them until now. According to Downtown News, developers originally hoped to demolish the cinemas to make way for a new project, but when plans were announced back in 1992, preservationists and the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency vehemently objected. According to Greg Martin, vice president of Downtown Management, there has been interest in utilizing the theaters as an entertainment venue for years, but they’ve proven to be a hard sell with potential tenants.

The theaters are currently used as swap meets, but after renovating the interior, exterior, and signage, developers say the spaces could once again become live entertainment venues or even be converted to retail spaces. “We see the theaters themselves to be contributing significantly to Broadway,” said Martin. “They’re definitely underutilized and it’s very difficult and challenging to find the right users.”

Downtown Management hopes that by refurbishing the spaces, they might convince the city to award them extra space for parking in the massive high-rise they’re building. Regulations dictate that projects can have no more than three floors of above-ground parking, and the developers are hoping to be permitted to have six, with some spots set aside for theater-goers.

Parking has been central to the project since it first was conceptualized about 10 years ago. Hellen says he initially hoped to build a residential structure in the lot, but then considered putting in a parking structure instead when the housing market went down about six years ago. Now that housing is looking up again, earlier plans for a larger residential project were put back in motion. “[Hellen] wanted to build something more than just a parking structure,” said Martin. “This is an important project for him. It’s like a legacy building.”

Since then, designs have been tweaked several times. In addition to (potentially) having ample parking, the tower, designed by Steinberg Architects in collaboration with TSK Architects, will boast 360 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments built to condominium-level specs with about 94,000 square feet of retail space available at the ground level. White, wavy balconies will give the tower an undulating look.

According to Martin, Downtown Management will likely be filing for a case management with the city in the next few weeks. He says the entire project will cost about $160 million, much of which will be paid for with Hellen’s money.