Roosevelt in need of buyer

posted by LouisRugani on June 23, 2008 at 8:00 am

KENOSHA, WI — The Roosevelt Theatre could go dark for good if no legitimate sale offers come forward very soon.

Mitch Engen, the city’s property division maintenance supervisor, said the city could finalize contracts for asbestos abatement and demolition for the Roosevelt Theatre, 2908 Roosevelt Road, within the next week.

“We’re working on the contracts right now,” Engen said. “We sent it out for bid and we’ve had proposals for abatement and, separately, to take the building down. Nothing has been approved but they’re out there and we’re dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ’t’s.”

The 80-year-old theater has been vacant for over two decades and was subject to a raze order last year. An injunction was filed when a group, led by Kenosha resident Ray Salerno, came forward with an interest in the building and a plan to turn it into an entertainment complex.

The property’s owners and the city signed a stipulation to delay that action, but a deadline for paying back taxes was missed earlier this year and the raze order became active again.

The city said they would consider holding off on demolition if any legitimate offers came forward to purchase the building. Engen said the city has not seen that yet.

“I had one person call up to see what we were looking for and what we would accept,” Engen said. “We laid it out for them, the same as everyone else: Show us that you have a business plan and the financial wherewithal and we’ll certainly sit down and talk to you. But we haven’t seen that individual come in yet.”

The building was listed at $174,900 last month through RealtyPro Professional Realty Group.

Robert Wagner, the agent for the property, said there has been interest but no concrete offers for the building.

“People have been looking, but there’s nothing on the table at this point,” Wagner said.

And Engen said with contracts close to being finalized, there was not much time left for those kinds of offers.

“Time is getting really narrow, people maybe have a week left,” Engen said. “The contracts are very close to being done.”

If these contracts are approved on schedule, Engen said asbestos abatement would start around July 12 and finish by the middle of August. The demolition of the building would happen after that process is completed.

Engen said repairs on the building were estimated to cost over $1 million. The demolition of the building would cost about $200,000.

Theaters in this post

Comments (4)

MiltonSmith on June 23, 2008 at 8:46 pm

Very sad indeed but can’t say I’m surprised. There are 2 other classic theatres in town and these buildings can’t get much financial help either. So, it doesn’t surprise me there is no one out there that wants to buy this building and stick a few million into it.

Still sad though to see this building go.

mp775 on June 24, 2008 at 5:22 am

From a March 24 article:

“Jim Schultz, director of Neighborhood Services and Inspections, said the city was doing its due diligence regarding the condition of the building and no timetable had been set for demolishing the building.

“‘We haven’t gone out for proposals (to raze the building), and we’re looking at the environmental problems associated with the building,’ Schultz said. ‘Primarily with the asbestos in the building, we’re looking to provide an examination and a report and identify what the problems are in the building and what the costs for removing it would be. Our intent would be to remove all of the asbestos before we bid it out for demolition.’”

What a difference a couple of months make…

LouisRugani on July 22, 2008 at 10:18 am

Council again defers razing the Roosevelt
July 22, 2008
Money from anonymous donor may be delivered later this week
MATTHEW OLSON – Kenosha News

The show will go on for at least two more weeks at the Roosevelt Theatre.

The Kenosha City Council on Monday voted 9-7 to defer approving contracts to remove asbestos and demolish the Roosevelt Theatre, 2908 Roosevelt Road.

The council is waiting for an anonymous donor who has pledged to pay the $20,000 in back taxes and special assessments levied against the building and spend about $300,000 to weatherproof the 80-year-old theater, which has been vacant for about 20 years.

The contracts to abate and raze the theater are valued at about $185,000.

Kathryn Hannemann, co-owner of the theater, said Monday that those funds were not available on Monday, but could be released on Thursday. The donor is still anonymous, but Hannemann said the individual was female and the funds, totaling $500,000, were coming from an inheritance.


The building was first condemned by the city in June 2007. A potential sale offer last summer led to an injunction to block that raze order. A stipulation was reached on Jan. 2 between the city and theater co-owners Hannemann and Jon Gee, but the first deadline to pay back taxes was missed a few weeks later.

“This has been going on for years,” Alderman Daniel Prozanski said. “This was not a two-weeks-ago problem that popped up. I think we need to take action.”

Alderman Don Ruef questioned the expediency to take the building down.

“It’s costing us nothing by having it sitting there,” Ruef said. “If we take it down, there’s another vacant lot that doesn’t do anyone any good.”

Other alderman said they were willing to wait two more weeks for results, but did not expect to wait any longer.

“I think it’s worth one more shot,” Tod Ohnstad said. “But if it doesn’t happen in two weeks, I’ll make a motion to approve the contracts.”

Jim Schultz, the city’s director for Neighborhood Services and Inspections, said there were some concerns about the safety of the building, but the city would prefer to see it renovated.

“It would be our desire to see it rehabilitated, but we have no indication that will happen,” Schultz said.

Hannemann said a multi-purpose use was being considered for the building. Alderman Ray Misner asked the city to suggest other options.

A few residents also spoke in support of preserving the theater.

Louis Rugani encouraged the city to take deed of the property. Former aldermanic candidate Steve Bostrom said the building could be a wonderful asset to the neighborhood and the city if it was fully functioning.

LouisRugani on July 24, 2008 at 11:54 am

No rush to create a vacant lot
July 23, 2008
Possibility of rehabbing Roosevelt Theatre is worth more time
EDITORIAL – Kenosha News

Some aldermen seem so eager to knock down the old Roosevelt Theatre, you’d think someone was waiting in the wings with a proposal for a condo development on the site.

But there isn’t anything else planned for the property. Impatient as some city officials may be about the lack of progress on the old theater at 2908 Roosevelt Road, it seems pretty clear that rehabilitating the building is a far better option than knocking it down. Since there is evidence that the theater owners have some new money behind them, the Kenosha City Council made the correct decision Monday night when it voted 9-7 to delay the wrecking ball by at least another two weeks.

As Alderman Donald Ruef pointed out at Monday’s meeting, it costs the city nothing to wait a little longer, and if the building is knocked down, all the city gains is another vacant lot.

For more than a year now, as the city threatened to knock down the vacant 80-year-old building, various people have expressed interest in reviving the Roosevelt, but no one seemed willing to invest the kind of money the project requires. Now the theater owners say they have a backer willing to pay the $20,000 in back taxes and special assessments and invest $300,000 in the building.

It ought to be worth waiting a couple weeks to see if that investment materializes. If it does, the city can save the money it would cost – about $185,000 – to knock the building down, and the city can collect back taxes and future taxes. The neighborhood would also get a theater, which could help other businesses in the area.


If the investment comes through, the Roosevelt Theatre saga would be a likely basis for a Disney-style movie: Tenacious, idealistic owners (good guys) hold off the bill collectors, bankers and building inspectors (bad guys) long enough for another idealistic partner to show up with a check. It could be an entertaining show, but in a good movie, the story line has to keep moving. The Roosevelt Theatre story is at the point where someone has to show up with the money soon, or there’s no happy ending.

But just the possibility of a happy ending is worth a little more time.

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