Warren hopes to save a bit of history

The Robins Theater, built in the 1920s, closed in the late '60s.
WARREN -- City officials hope a combination of state and private funds can restore a downtown landmark to its former grandeur.
Warren Redevelopment and Planning has applied for a state grant of $7 million to restore the Robins Theater, located on Market Street.
The theater, built in the 1920s, closed in the late 1960s.
Michael D. Keys, WRAP executive director, envisions a venue that would feature performers such as those appearing at another theater in Canton. WRAP is a nonprofit organization that provides business loans, development and planning and a Main Street program focusing on the central business district.
"That theater is about the same size as this one, and they've had performers like Ray Charles and Steven Wright," Keys said.
Dust and debris litter the floor of the once palatial theater, but remnants of its past remain. Signs at the front announce a ladies' night movie special. The upper floor still sports the velvet walls and elaborate fixtures of yesteryear.
Keys and several city officials met earlier this year with Gov. Bob Taft's budget director to pitch the Robins Theater, Riverwalk, National Packard Museum and Packard Music Hall projects.
A shortfall in the state budget and cuts across many state departments don't bode well for the chances this year. Word isn't expected for at least a few months.
The city requested $10 million two years ago for the Riverwalk and Robins Theater projects and received $2 million.
Keys said the plan is to use about $50,000 of that money for design. WRAP hopes to soon seek proposals from architectural firms for the design phase. After that, officials will have a clearer idea of what needs to be done and the projected costs.
Keys said the project isn't on the fast track. It's a long-range goal. The agency hopes that organizations or private contributors also kick in some of the costs to see the project come to life.
A 1997 report by a Pittsburgh development company, regarding the city's historic attributes and ways to market them, suggested restoration of the theater as an additional attraction to "help generate visitor business and to retain visitors overnight for the economic benefit of the area."
It suggested shows highlighting pieces of the city's history such as the commission of a play on the Suffragette Movement and Warren resident Harriet Taylor Upton's role in it to be performed at the renovated theater.

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