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D.C.'s downtown lights up with Warner Theatre's revival.

The reopening of the historical Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. is expected to provide more than a better entertainment atmosphere for theatre goers. The city hopes it will kick in an economic boost as part of the revitalization efforts of Downtown.

The Warner Theatre renovation project began with a $4 million Urban Development Action Grant received by the District of Columbia from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Those funds have since been phased out by HUD. The District of Columbia, through its Office of Economic Development, then loaned the grant money to the Kaempfer Company to develop and renovate the 2,000 seat theatre. The total project cost about $220 million over six years.

The Warner Theatre opened on October 1, 1992 with the usual Washington fanfare and gala activities, including a rare performance by Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. The two entertainers seldom perform in such intimate settings.

The project, the culmination of six years of planning, development, design and construction, includes meticulous renovation of the 68-year-old building, which has an 18th Century London splendor and was actually named orginally the Earle Theatre after the Earles Court in London. Theatre guests sit under golden ceilings, chandeliers and unobstructed vistas. Warner Brothers of Hollywood completed a merger of the project in 1934 and it was renamed in 1947 to reflect the new ownership.

"Just as the Warner Theatre was a cornerstone in the thriving East End of the 1920s, so too is it destined to again become an integral part of the East End Business District of the 1990s," said the Kaempfer Company.

To further the chances, of the project being an impetus for increased revenues in the city, the Warner Theatre has a new counterpart which includes 550,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square-feet of retail space designed by James Ingo Freed of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

The office complex, which is connected to the rear of the old Warner building, stretches the Warner Project a full block down the noted Pennsylvania Avenue corridor. Tenants in the new office building will enjoy the exclusive luxuries of a 4,500 square-foot health club, concierge service and 7,500 square-foot roof-top deck. The new building is high-lighted with a dramatic thirteen story skylit atrium in the center.

The project, which has already attracted leases from internationally known specialty food merchant Dean & DeLuca - scheduled to open two of the cafes, and the prestigious law firm of Howrey & Simon - has agreed to lease 250,000 square feet from the project.

The addition to the Warner Theatre was greatly needed for the District as several large firms have a need for huge lots of downtown office space, yet the supply for such a demand has rapidly decreased with few new projects scheduled to open in the near future.

The District of Columbia is hoping the renovation of the theatre in particular will mean more revenues for the city.

"We believe that theatre and the arts bring people to the area and people spend money," said a spokesperson for the city's Office of Business and Economic Development.

The Warner is located upstairs from the Metroline subway system, and is walking distance to many top-rated restaurants and hotels.

The Warner represents one of several historical sites in Washington, D.C. that received facelifts recently, including the Greyhound Bus Terminal and the city-owned Lincoln Theatre, which is still being completed.

The new art deco Greyhound Bus Station in Washington. D.C. received the Associated Builders & Contractors 1992 Excellence in Construction Ward in the category for renovation/historical restoration over $5 million.

The terminal was originally built in 1939 as an example of then-modern technology. The new design continues that tradition, as it captures travellers with a domed and skylit ceiling, copper-trimmed walnut benches, and columns of gleaming black.

The old greyhound terminal was restored almost entirely. A new building was constructed and attached to the old building. The new building was then made to look as if it had always been a part of the structure. Construction included the fabrication of a storefront entry and the creation of ornaments, tiles and cornices to match the terminal's original, outdated designs.

The restoration was developed by the A.S. McGaughan Co, Inc. and designed by the Keyes Condon Florance, Eichbaum, Esocoff & King Architects, Washington, D.C.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:City Ideas That Work; Washington, D.C.
Author:Baker, Denise
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Oct 26, 1992
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