August 03, 2007

Renovated Midland Theatre expected to open in spring

The Midland Theatre is expected to reopen in the spring following a $28 million makeover that will refresh the old vaudeville palace, introduce cabaret seating and add several bars.

The joint venture by the Cordish Co. of Baltimore and Kansas City-based AMC Entertainment, first announced two years ago, is intended to reposition the historic landmark at 13th and Main streets to essentially become a huge nightclub accommodating up to 3,200 people.

“Our collective goal is to respect the incredible historic nature of the building and improve it to where it could truly be a substantial anchor for the Power & Light District and downtown Kansas City,” said Reed Cordish, a vice president.

“We want it to be active as many days and nights a year as possible.”

Cordish said his firm and AMC are close to completing a deal with one of the “largest players” in the live music and performance industry to operate the facility.

The biggest visual change planned for the ornate interior of the 80-year-old theater is replacement of its main-level seating rows with a seven-tier open floor that will allow flexibility for cabaret-style tables and chairs, or standing for general admission events. Up to 700 plush folding chairs also can be set up.

The other significant addition will be a lounge area being built on a platform at the rear of the upper balcony. The bar will wrap around a centerpiece shaped like a chandelier.

All the interior changes meet the historic preservation guidelines laid down by the state and federal governments, Cordish said.

The Midland, which has been owned by AMC since 1966, was renovated in 1988 and 1998, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We have been steadfast in our effort to maintain the historic character inside,” said Jeff Schutzler, a principal at Helix Architecture & Design, the firm doing the design work. “We want to make sure we don’t detract and in fact enhance the theater.”

On the outside, the Midland marquee is slated to be restored to its original appearance when the theater opened in 1927.

“The marquee will be returned to a classic theater marquee down to the detail of individual bulbs spelling out the name,” Cordish said.

The familiar decor of the lobby and other public areas will be freshened up and restored to its original splendor, Cordish said.

The most substantial changes will be to the five-level office section of the theater that faces Main Street. It has been vacant for many years, and the Cordish plan calls for it to be renovated and included in the entertainment mix. Each level has about 3,000 square feet of floor space.

The first floor will become a lounge that can be accessed from a new outside entrance at 13th and Main and from the theater lobby. Below it, the basement space will become a bar geared toward rock bands. The entire bar will be called The Indie.

A private passage will lead from the Midland backstage and dressing room area to the basement bar. The plan calls for a renovation of the dressing room areas that will include showers and other amenities for performers.

The second level of the former office structure will be used for administrative functions. The third floor will have a catering kitchen that will allow the Midland to be used for private functions and events.