Praise planners who will reopen Robins Theater

Warren businessmen Mark Marvin and Ken Haidaris know that entertainment is a key to increasing foot traffic in downtown Warren and to help in the revitalization of the city.

Economic development experts agree events showcasing America’s downtowns with music and food play an important role in transforming dwindling city centers back into thriving urban districts.

That’s why we are thrilled with the recently announced plans to renovate and reopen the Robins Theater in downtown Warren.

It was a late Christmas gift to the city when Marvin’s Downtown Development Group, LLC, or DDG, confirmed it purchased the long-vacant Robins Theater with plans to reopen the beautiful and historic entertainment venue. The Robins is located on East Market Street, just off Courthouse Square. DDG purchased it last month from Heritage Galleria Ltd. for $375,000. Marvin, a Warren native, estimates the cost to renovate and prepare the 1,500-seat theater will be at least $5 million, including updating the heating, ventilation and air conditioning along with electrical work.

Equally satisfying is the fact that once it’s ready to go, the venue will be managed by locally based Sunrise Entertainment, co-founded by Ken Haidaris and Marty Cohen, both of Warren.

What a boon for Warren!

The theater, originally built in 1923 as a vaudeville and silver screen theater, closed in 1974 and was left unattended until it was purchased in the early 1980s by Brad Phillips and his brothers. Those owners invested in a new roof and removed the carpet. According to a professional renovation company that had inspected the building in previous years, those two factors may have saved the building.

In recent years, a downtown volunteer group dubbed the Robins Project had put some effort into cleaning up the theater, envisioning a return to its grandeur. While Marvin recently explained his efforts are unrelated to those plans, the group still has expressed its excitement to see Marvin step in to infuse the finances necessary to make reopening a reality.

Reopening the venue will make Warren’s center more vibrant and welcoming to residents here, as well as to visitors who don’t live or work near downtown. It exposes a wider segment of our community to the unique assets and beauty of downtown, hopefully making them all more comfortable with return visits to dine, shop or even live. And with that comes the possibility of them locating their businesses downtown.

Haidaris had this to say, “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 energy it needs. This will do that. It’s the tipping point.”

We agree.

Of course, events allow downtown merchants chances to engage with the visitors as well. Whether it’s Nova Coffee located around the corner, Saratoga Restaurant across the street, Thom Duma Jewelers on the Square, Sunrise Inn just down the street, or any of the other nearby merchants or restaurants, downtown Warren can only benefit from the addition of new entertainment venues.

We salute Marvin and Sunrise Entertainment for putting so much investment and effort into their hometown. We are thrilled to see these businessmen share the great vision they have for our city.

And when this project is complete and open for business — projected for two years out — we hope those who live and work in the Mahoning Valley will make it a point to take advantage of the opportunity by regularly attending events and entertainment in downtown.