Once upon a time it was the Michigan Theatre. Later, it morphed into a bowling alley and a roller rink. Now, the basement of Front Row Centre at 121 E. Front St. is envisioned to be a place where 300 people can gather for private parties – a BYO-food-liquor-chair kind of place.
“So, if Sam Porter [of Porter Productions, a music and event promotions company] or the Film Fest wants to rent it or if John Doe wants to do a birthday party, they can bring in their own food and drink,” says Angela Schuler, area artist and project manager. “Most events will be held at night.”
Schuler, who rents space on the main floor of Front Row Centre, says the 5,000 square-foot basement is “raw, with great wood floors” – a remnant of the roller rink, The Fun Factory (c’mon, you remember). It’s been empty since 1983.
“I went to Marty [Lagina] ... and said I thought we could use this for something,” she recalls, “So, I put together a little plan to make it a venue for people to rent.”
“Ballpark” rental rates? Schuler is thinking $800 for rentals on weekends and $600 for weekdays.
Renovations will run approximately $250,000 and should be complete by May 15, Schuler says. Much of the work, like HVAC and fire suppression, was completed three years ago when a billiards place was in the works, she adds.
The space can hold 319 people. They might add partitions down the road, but for now, “we want it to be big and open,” she explains.
“The design is very contemporary,” says Schuler, who plans to rent the space for her art shows. “It’s white, and orange is the accent color, and we’re putting light and sound in for the stage.”
She says renters will be able to bring in liquor – as long as they’re not charging people to get in. Renters can even bring in their own band.
“It’ll be fun to see how it goes for a year or two,” she says. “Ultimately, though, our goal is to find a permanent renter, like a restaurant.”
Schuler says there is – as of yet – no name for the space .