Historic Uptown Theatre, on North Broad Street, has started renovations

The famed Uptown Theatre, a landmark theater on North Broad Street that had entertained generations of Philadelphians and launched many musicians and singers to stardom, has finally started its long-awaited renovation.  The renovation is being spearheaded by the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation, which owns the theatre and runs several youth arts and educational programs.  The first phase of the project is to renovate the multi-storey building in the front of the theatre, above the entrance and historic marquee on Broad Street, into an educational and community center for those youth (and some adult) educational and arts programs.  Funding, from government sources and private fundraising, is in place for that phase, while the UEDC is still raising money to renovate the large, historic auditorium for modern entertainment uses.  The UEDC, also, had lit up the famous letters over the old marquee, during the holiday season, to draw attention to the renovation efforts.

The Uptown Theatre first opened in the 1920s as an art deco “movie palace” for Warner Brothers.  From the 1950s through the 1970s, it was a musical venue and was the location for R & B, Blues singers, and Motown acts.  In the 70s, it also became a place for many Philadelphia singers and bands to perform and get noticed.  The list of performers included James Brown, The Supremes, Patti LaBelle, The Jackson 5, The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Marvin Gaye, and Hall & Oates.  The theatre closed in 1983 and had been used intermittently as a church until 2003.

Plans to renovate the Uptown have been circulating for many years, creating skepticism that they would come to fruition.  The efforts of the UEDC got a big boost in 2007, when the city awarded a grant of more than a $1 million to the group through the Street Administration’s Cultural Corridors program.  The UEDC wants to use the six-storey building in front as an “educational and community tower” and will house their arts and educational programs there.  They intend to rent space to other arts groups and music and film companies to raise money for the final phase, the restoration of the grand theatre into a modern-day music and entertainment venue.  You can find out more about the UEDC and their efforts to renovate the Uptown, and revitalize the area around it, at their website, here.

This is just the latest development on North Broad Street that is rapidly remaking the area.  The Avenue North development, just south of the Temple campus, already has brought new entertainment in the form of a popular multiplex movie theatre, as well as, new retail.  The rebuilding of Progress Plaza has brought a new supermarket and other retail a few years ago.  But, also, there are several new projects underway, including the redevelopment of the old Blue Horizon boxing locale into a hotel; the renovation of the former State Office Building into apartments, with an eventual shopping center; the 600 North Broad Street development, which has several new upscale restaurants; and a new development at Temple that will have a new highrise dorm and another shopping center along Broad Street.  There will, also, be a new streetscape and street lighting project along the North Broad corridor.  I’ll have more on these projects soon, but what’s clear is that the North Broad Street corridor is experiencing an amazing amount of new development which will certainly increase demand for housing and retail, and increase property values in an area where property values are still rather low.  This makes North Broad a prime location for investment, as investment properties are still affordable but will likely see dramatic price increases as these many developments are completed.  If you are interested in buying or selling an investment property or home along, or near, North Broad Street, feel free to contact me at gabriel@thecondoshops.com or sign onto my Facebook page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor, or follow my twitter page @GabrielGPhilaRE.  And check out our Condo Shop website, www.thecondoshops.com, sign onto our Condo Shop Facebook page, The Condo Shop, or follow our new twitter page, @The_Condo_Shop.

The Uptown Theatre, showing full building and old marquee

Looking up at the outdated marquee and art deco facade of the theatre's education and community building

Sign announcing the project

Avenue North and the Pearl (movie)Theatre just a few blocks south of the Uptown

Newly renovated Progress Plaza, with the new Fresh Grocer supermarket, a few blocks from the Uptown


About gabrielcgottlieb

I am a real estate agent at Long & Foster Real Estate Center City and someone who likes to write about development and urban planning in the City of Philadelphia. Contact me at Gabriel.gottlieb@LNF.com if you are interested in buying or selling a home or investment property in Philadelphia.
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1 Response to Historic Uptown Theatre, on North Broad Street, has started renovations

  1. Alicia says:

    It’s nice that there’s development going on in North Philadelphia, but what does that say for the African Americans who are the make up of these communities? Will they be able to afford to stay there or will they be displaced?

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