Next month will mark ten years since the Pabst Theater Group took over management of the Riverside Theater on Milwaukee’s West Wisconsin Avenue.
The theater has been on the verge of being gutted or demolished several times during its almost 90 years in existence. The Riverside has been more stable ever since developer and philanthropist Joseph Zilber launched a complete renovation of the space in 1984.
Later this fall, a new marquee and 40-foot vertical sign will hang over the Riverside’s entrance – a development that has both literal and symbolic significance.
"One of the great things about Milwaukee is that its really a combination of preserving our old heritage and new things going up, and clearly a great part of Milwaukee's history is the Riverside which was built in 1929," Zilber Ltd.'s John Kersey says. "So to the extent that we can give it a new face but keep the old feel, I think it's really a boon for Milwaukee."
From new carpeting to roof improvements, the Riverside has been under extensive preservation this summer. But to Pabst Theater Group CEO Gary Witt, improving the Riverside not only improves its curb appeal, but its place in Milwaukee.
"When you build a building, it's not necessarily only the architecture, it's not the materials that are used to build it that predict its success, it's also somewhat the soul and identity of the theater," he says.