Friday, June 6, 2014
By Ed Runyan
Thirteen students from The New School in New York City returned to Warren and presented their plan for funding the $14 million renovation of the Robins Theater on East Market Street near Courthouse Square.
The students and several professors came to Warren in February to research the project at the urging of Warren resident Melissa Holmes, a graduate of The New School.
The students represent the fields of development finance and urban design and collaborated to offer a plan to make the theater renovation the centerpiece for a stronger Warren.
“We see the Robins as a catalyst to help develop and help bring economic and commercial development back to downtown Warren,” said student Ana Pena during the presentation at the Wean Foundation offices.
The students looked at what a theater means in the 21st century and identified a number of things that would best meet the needs of today’s citizenry.
Among them are brewery, cafe, wood shop, museum, restaurant, kitchen, event hall, multi-purpose space and recording studio.
Student Micah Hunter discussed several funding sources that would provide millions of dollars — New Market Tax Credits and Historical Tax Credits, a bank loan and fundraising of about $3 million to $4 million.
Ben Winings of Warren, an architectural historian, said of the Robins, “The place has held up very well considering it’s nearly 100 years old,” describing it as having a lot of water damage, but 50 percent to 65 percent of the plaster being salvageable.
Repairing the roof and cleaning it up enough to assess the amount of damage would be the first priority, he said.
The Robins is one of 10 areas identified in a 10-point plan that city and community leaders have worked on in recent years to revitalize the city.
Various individuals talked about their projects in the 10-point plan, such as the Hughes Mansion at 634 North Park Ave. that the nonprofit Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership has adopted.
TNP introduced Anna Gasser of Liberty, who has formed the AMG Foundation to raise money to provide the $464,000 that will be needed to turn the home into a veterans’ boarding house.
An agreement with TNP will allow the foundation to acquire the property for free and acquire the title to the property when the foundation has completed a list of improvements.
Gasser said she started writing letters and sending care packages to troops in Iraq four to five years ago and now has contact with veterans who have returned home.
Many have returned to one-bedroom apartments, but a better environment would be a boarding house where they can support each other. The Hughes mansion could be an ideal location for this type of housing, she said.