Several years ago, part of the building collapsed.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- It won't be too long before the first theater operated by the famed Warner brothers comes alive again.
Developer Tom George said work is progressing inside -- and soon on the outside -- of the Neisner-Centennial Building, the focal point of the planned Hollywood-themed mall proposed by George and his partners at Cascade Development.
They are re-creating the first nickelodeon and vaudeville theaters operated by the Warners, the Youngstown natives who went on to become Hollywood movie moguls, and plan to fill the rest of the building with small specialty shops and restaurants.
George said they expect to open the doors by Oct. 31.
Several businesses already signed on and they are looking for others, George said. He declined to say who is locating there, but said they include a restaurant, coffee shop, candy store and a variety shop.
George said they discovered the Warners had operated a third, smaller theater, in addition to the nickelodeon and vaudeville theaters, and are looking at possibly opening it up, too.
The building, on East Washington and Mill streets, fell into disrepair and partly collapsed several years ago before George and his partners took it over.
He said they spent the last several months gutting the inside and working on structural problems.
But many have wondered when work will begin on the outside. The project has been the impetus for the city's downtown revitalization, which is now under way. A $5 million state grant is helping pay for new utilities, sidewalks and parking.
George said new windows should be in the building in about a month and work on rebuilding outside brick that collapsed will start in a few weeks.
Work on an addition, which will be the main entrance and house a restaurant, will start in June, George said.
George added that they are still looking for businesses to lease space inside, and he has hired Ann Beard, a leasing expert from Cleveland, to find new businesses. She is working out of George's New Castle offices.
"We are looking for just the right magical mix of successful businesses that will be supported by the theater," Beard said.
They hope the theaters, which will include live entertainment, and the shops will become a regional attraction.
"This is going to be the hub of the city. It's going to be the draw. The theaters are the driving force," George said.