GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – A plan to breathe new life into a shuttered historic Grand Rapids theater has cleared another hurdle.
On Thursday, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved a 250-person capacity for Four Star Theatre, located on South Division Avenue just north of Burton Street. The commission also waived parking requirements and set conditions the venue must meet to expand its capacity.
Four Star Theatre was built in 1938. The theater also served as a concert venue, auditorium, community/youth center and church before closing more than a decade ago.
Marcus Ringnalda bought the building in 2017. He thinks the Four Star can reprise its starring role in Burton Heights as a community arts center and events venue.
“We really think… the Four Star can be an anchor in that neighborhood and really something that brings some community pride and identity to that part of the city,” Ringnalda told commissioners.
Ringnalda started the nonprofit group Friends of Four Star to raise an estimated $5 million to renovate the 11,000-square-foot space. He says the organization will eventually take over ownership of Four Star Theatre.
Ringnalda said the group is working on a three-year plan for the venue. The goal is to eventually host 200 events a year, from weddings and quinceaneras to concerts, comedy acts and events showcasing local artists.
“This is really a space meant to bring community together in virtually any way that you can conceive,” Ringnalda said.
Renovations are already underway on the building, which had its last major investment in the 1990s, Ringnalda said. The team has removed all seating from the venue, fixed a couple of leaky pipes and cleaned up the space. The next step is to fix the property’s heating, air and sprinkler systems, clearing the way for a permit to hold small events before the major renovation.
“We’re really excited to press go on that and within three or four months to start hosting people in this building,” Ringnalda said.
Ringnalda said Friends of Four Star will focus on fundraising and community engagement this year. If all goes well, major renovations would start next year.
Those plans include landscaping the parking lot, which will contain approximately 22 spaces after renovations. Four Star plans to primarily rely on nearby city lots for visitor parking. Ringnalda said they’ll work with the city and stakeholders on a traffic management plan.
The final phase of the project will include restoring the marquee and building an addition to the southern portion of the building to make the space more accessible to people with disabilities. The expansion would include restrooms and concessions to accommodate a future capacity of up to 1,000 people.
When finished, Four Star is expected to be open from 9 a.m. to midnight daily. The organization isn’t planning any outdoor activities but is considering hosting food trucks and outdoor movie showings in the property’s parking lot on the northeast corner.
People interested in the project can follow the progress and donate by visiting www.fourstargr.com.