Renovations to the historic Uptown Theater on Broad Street near Dauphin will not be finalized until at least 2022, said Yumy Odom, the Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation Program Committee chair.
The multistage process of renovation was set to be completed this year, The Temple News reported in February 2019, but the $14-million project is not fully funded, said Linda Richardson, president of the UEDC.
The UEDC will start the last phase of the theater’s renovation in the second quarter of 2020, she added.
This phase will involve completing demolition of the first six floors, finalizing renovations to the roof, lobby and security system, replacing doors, windows and lights, and finishing the renovation of the theater’s subway entrance, Richardson said.
The renovated building will boast 2,100 seats, a redeveloped auditorium and balcony, an entrance from the Susquehanna-Dauphin station and increased parking, The Temple News reported.
Uptown Theater opened in 1929 and hosted stars like Patti LaBelle and Michael Jackson. Listed in the National Register of Historical Places, the 91-year-old building celebrated its 90th anniversary last year with a re-lighting of its marquee and a masquerade ball.
“Part of our mission is to provide services and employment to the people in the community,” Richardson said. “Secondly, the historic Uptown Theater is one of the few African-American historic sites that is still intact.”
“We are concerned that those residents and businesses that stayed in North-Central Philadelphia during the time of redlining and tax increases should now benefit from the new interest in North Broad in particular and neighborhood revitalization in general,” she added.
The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has cataloged more than 400 African-American historical sites around Philadelphia, including the Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street near 18th and the Black Panther offices on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, which was Columbia Avenue.
“Our group is supportive of the Uptown’s restoration and reuse in the form of advocacy and awareness,” said Paul Steinke, executive director of the Preservation Alliance.
The UEDC has received several grants for the theater’s renovation, including a $500,000 state grant in February 2018 and a $750,000 state grant in August 2019.
A capital campaign also raised $10 million for the project, Richardson said.
James Johnson, who lives on Dover Street near Oxford, saw James Brown and The Supremes play at Uptown, he said.
“Some of the greatest entertainers ever played at the Uptown. This was as top-notch as the Apollo,” Johnson said, referring to the Apollo Theater in New York City.
“It’s one of the most historic places in all of Philadelphia,” said John Creighton, who lives on Broad Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
“They’ve put a lot of work and time into it,” he added. “I just want to see it open.”