Mark Marvin’s company buys Robins Theatre building

The Robins Theatre on East Market Street in downtown Warren has been purchased by Warren native Mark Marvin’s Downtown Development Group LLC, which plans to turn the historic building into an entertainment venue managed by Sunrise Entertainment. Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple

WARREN — Mark Marvin’s Downtown Development Group LLC purchased the Robins Theatre building and plans to turn the decades-dormant venue into a downtown entertainment hub that will be managed by Sunrise Entertainment.

“We feel it’s going to be a linchpin to the revitalization of downtown and bring it back to its previous glory,” Marvin said Tuesday. “We purchased it because it fits in with the rest of the projects we’ve done to get foot traffic and people downtown.”

According to the Trumbull County Auditor’s website, DDG purchased the building at 160 E. Market St. for $375,000 from Heritage Galleria Ltd. Marvin, whose downtown properties include the Mahoning and Atrium buildings, as well as the site of Nova Coffee Co., estimated the cost between $5 million and $7 million to reopen the 1,500-seat theater. The main expenses will be updating the heating, ventilation and air conditioning as well as electrical work.

“The space itself is not in as bad of condition as people would believe,” Marvin said. “The beauty of the place is still evident … There are some sound issues and lighting issues that the modern day presents to us that we have to fit into a theater built in 1923, but none of it is insurmountable.”

Sunrise Entertainment, which presents the River Rock at the Amp series at the Warren Community Amphitheatre and has promoted concerts and theatrical events at Packard Music Hall in Warren and Powers and Stambaugh auditoriums in Youngstown, will operate the venue once restoration is complete.

Marvin said he has worked with Sunrise co-founder Ken Haidaris on other projects and his knowledge of the entertainment side made him willing to proceed.

“If I couldn’t book that side of it and have someone I felt comfortable doing it with, I would have walked away from the project,” Marvin said. “The idea is not only to restore this crown jewel but also to use this crown jewel. If you restore it and don’t use it, it’s essentially money lost … We’ve proven on both sides what he does best and what I do best that we have the ability to come in and make this project work, and that’s what’s different from other people who’ve come in and tried to do something.”

Haidaris added, “The goal is to drive traffic to Warren, to get people walking the streets again in downtown Warren, have a drink, have a bite to eat, use the parking deck. Downtown is beautiful, but it doesn’t have the energy it needs. This will do that. It’s the tipping point.”

In recent years, the Robins Project has organized volunteer cleanup efforts at the theater and partnered with The New School in New York City to develop potential uses for the space.

Robins Project organizer Melissa Holmes said, “We all hoped and prayed that one day a private developer would come along and infuse this project with the capital it needs to be restored. Mark Marvin has a vision of a revitalized downtown Warren and has put his money where his mouth is. It is an exciting moment to know that the dream of restoring the Robins will finally become a reality.”

The smaller theater fills a niche for shows that aren’t big enough to play Packard, Powers and Stambaugh, which each hold more than 2,000 people, Haidaris said. He and Marvin envision the space being used for concerts and comedy shows as well as movies. They also want it to be used by schools that might not have adequate theater spaces and for other community events.

The building also includes office and retail spaces that currently are occupied. Marvin said there are no changes planned for those tenants in 2018.

The theater will operate as a private-public partnership, Marvin said, and more details about that partnership and the renovation process will be revealed at a press conference scheduled for Feb. 6.

Maintenance and cleanup work will start next week. Marvin said some factors are beyond their control, but he estimated the renovation project will take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

“Hopefully, we’ll be having an opening event two years from now,” Marvin said.



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