Downtown Rockford ready for more theaters

Times Theater redux still in the works.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 6:39 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Mary Pat Muzzarelli runs Rockford Public Library’s Nordolf Center, which includes the 286-seat Sullivan Theater.

She says although the BMO Center and Coronado Performing Arts Center were built for larger events, and the Sullivan is perfect for intimate settings, she wants to see two vacant theaters to fill the need for more mid-size rooms.

”Could you imagine the life downtown?” Muzarelli said. “The Times, the Midway, the Coronado, RPL’s Nordlof Center—each housing a different show specific to a separate genre. It would be an artistic destination.”

Muzzarelli will get at least part of her wish once Joseph James Partners rehabs the 84-year old Times Theater at 224 N. Main St.

Announced in 2021, the project is expected to seat between 650 and 900 people for live performances and theoccasional movie.

Muzzarelli says the venue, which is just down the street from the Nordlof, is exactly what downtown needs. She says it’s perfect for promoters who can’t fill the BMO or the Coronado but know the Nordlof is too small.

Patrick Alberto, who owns Octane at 124 N. Main St., next door to Nordlof, says he is just starting to get his pre-pandemic foot traffic back. Downtown restaurants are busy during events at the BMO, Coronado and Nordlof, he said, but there are still days when customers are scarce. That’s why he says a reborn Times Theater couldn’t come soon enough.

”It would boost the downtown economy, honestly. The businesses around it would be benefiting from it 100%,” Alberto said. “The issue now is keeping people down here so the businesses in close proximity can benefit from it.”

While Joseph James said the Times project is in the works, a construction timeline has not been released. The firm announced last August that it won a $3 million dollar grant from the state as part of the funding.

Midway Theater owner Peter Crane told 23 News Thursday that he is currently looking into whether the market would support the venue as a fourth downtown entertainment spot. He said if he decides against that option, he will likely convert the historic theater into commercial or mixed-use space.