A development team consisting of architect Jerry Uhran and the owners and tenants within the Beacham Theater and adjacent establishments are working together to renovate the exterior of the historic building in downtown Orlando.
Earlier this month, the city’s Historic Preservation Board unanimously approved initial plans to alter the facade of the Beacham Theater and the first two contiguous bays to its north.
Uhran told GrowthSpotter the makeover aims to capture what the theater looked like a century ago.
Certain elements such as the sign at the top center of the structure, that once projected over the canopy, are going to be brought back to resemble the original architecture.
“It was an iconic sign,” Uhran said. “[The renovations] will make the building look like it was in the 1900s. It’s suppose to bring about a nostalgic feeling.”
Renovations include adding new marquee boards and upgrading the storefronts, signage and lighting fixtures featured on the property. The stucco elements on the exterior of the building will also be updated to add more depth and texture reminiscent to the original facade.
Plans for the theater include adding two parallel illuminated spheres that will top the front of the building. The blade sign that will feature the name of the theater will be double-sided and centrally mounted with color changing RGB LED lights.
According to conditions set by staff, the proposed digital marquee screens on the theater must keep to a black and white display, similar to New York City’s Apollo Theater, if they were to get approved.
The storefront upgrades will require additional review for appearance.
The renovation to the exterior of the Beacham Theater and adjacent establishments will take place in two phases, according to submitted documents.
The first phase will include the theater and the first two commercial bays to its north, which currently houses nightlife venues Aero Bar and The Social.
The second phase includes the remaining five bays that face North Orange Avenue and West Washington Street. Tenants include The Patio and Planet Pizza.
The applicants are applying for a grant from the city’s recently renamed Downtown Commercial and Residential Building Improvement program, which provides funding of up to $120,000 for projects that plan to improve vacant or underutilized properties in the Central Business District and surrounding neighborhoods, like Parramore.
Karyn Barber, a spokesperson for the city said, the applicants received approval from the historic board to move forward with pursuing plans and the grant, but specifics about the facade improvements have not been decided yet.
“At this time no agreements have been signed or approved,” she said in a written statement.
Uhran said the team plans to submit modified plans for a second review sometime within the next month.
If all goes smoothly, the applicants expect to start construction of the first phase by the first quarter of 2020, he told GrowthSpotter.
The Beacham, built in 1921, was one of Orlando’s first theaters. Since then, it has been modified and expanded by several structural additions. The theater has also gone through several exterior and interior renovations.
The site was formerly a jail for Orange County until around 1873. About 44 years later, the property was purchased by Braxton Beacham Sr., who had previously served as Mayor of Orlando during 1907. The jail building was razed to make way for the theater.
John Philip Sousa — the composer and conductor behind the National March of the United States of America: Stars and Stripes Forever — performed at the theater.
It also hosted Vaudeville acts from 1921 to 1936, and later switched to showing movies. For a time, it was the Great Southern Music Hall, Laser World and Moulin Orange.
Today, the Beacham currently operates as a live music venue and event space.
It is owned by Beacham Theater LLC, which is led by real estate investor Margaret Casscells. The property has been owned by the Casscells family since 1990.
The theater is leased out by John SanFelippo and George Maltezos.
The property neighbors the CenterState Bank tower at 20 N. Orange Ave., which private equity firm Steelbridge purchased in 2014 for $34.75 million.
In 2017, Steelbridge announced it was planning to invest $2 million into renovating the ground-floor of its 16-story office tower.
Editor’s note: A previous version incorrectly stated the theater was built in 1920. It was built in 1921. Certain establishments linked to the theater were built in 1920, according to Orange County’s property appraiser. The story was also updated to clarify it was one of Orlando’s first theaters. Some theaters may have came before, but none of its size.