Investment announced during tour highlighting the state’s investments in small businesses and economic development, including the successful Main Street Bounceback Grant Program that has helped more than 6,200 small businesses and nonprofits across the state.
WAUKESHA — Gov. Tony Evers, together with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes, today announced the city of Waukesha will be receiving a $250,000 Community Development Investment Grant from WEDC to support a project designed to spur cultural growth and bring more visitors to the downtown area. The announcement was made during a visit to Waukesha where the governor and secretary were highlighting the successful Main Street Bounceback Grant Program that has helped more than 6,200 small businesses and nonprofits and is receiving an additional investment of $25 million, as announced earlier today.
The project, known as the Academy Expansion Project, will provide a new façade and lobby to brighten and revitalize the existing space at 264 W. Main St., and in the adjacent, recently purchased space at 270 W. Main St. a new, 75-seat theatre, the Black Box Theatre, will be developed, including backstage, reception, and office areas.
“Not only do great community development projects—like the Academy Expansion Project—bring together our local communities, but they have the potential to bring in countless other guests, visitors, and artists, who are ready to explore all our state has to offer,” said Gov. Evers. “This makes them smart investments for our state, helping us bolster our cultural experiences, generating new opportunities, and supporting our local main street economies.”
WEDC’s Community Development Investment Grant Program supports community development and redevelopment efforts, primarily in downtown areas. The matching grants are awarded based on the ability of applicants to demonstrate the economic impact of the proposed project, including public and private partnership development, financial need, and use of sustainable downtown development practices.
“The Waukesha Civic Theatre has long been drawing crowds downtown,” said Secretary Hughes. “This renovation and expansion will allow the theater to continue entertaining visitors and inspiring the next generation of artists to take the stage. WEDC is excited to assist with this expansion, and we expect the updated theater to further benefit the community both culturally and economically.”
“It’s going to get a really great facelift, so it will definitely add, aesthetically, to Main Street,” said Jennifer Andrews, director of Waukesha’s Community Development Department. “It will draw even more activity to Main Street as they increase their programming and add a second theatre space—they’ll be able to have more than one show at a time, and that just increases the overall usage of the building and how many people come to visit.”
In addition to performances, the Waukesha Civic Theatre also hosts theatre classes for students in the community. This expansion increases capacity for the classes, too, bringing more people to downtown Waukesha.
“Whether it’s patrons coming for a show or parents dropping their kids off and waiting at a nearby coffee shop, it’s overall going to increase the theatre’s economic impact on Main Street and downtown as a whole,” Andrews said.
The Waukesha Civic Theatre has operated for 65 years, but it didn’t move into this current space until 1999, when its arrival at 264 W. Main St. had a resounding impact on downtown Waukesha. Revitalizing the theatre 23 years later could prove similarly beneficial, building on the momentum of redevelopment and modernization in the area.
“Downtown is vibrant and changing, and that’s been helping push some owners to make investments in their buildings,” Andrews said. “This is following along with that trend, which we’re very grateful for.”
From the program’s inception in 2013 through March 2022, WEDC has awarded nearly $34.8 million in Community Development Investment Grants to 166 communities for projects expected to generate more than $517 million in capital investments statewide.