Albion discussing ways to reopen its downtown Bohm Theatre

By Kyle Feldscher | The Jackson Citizen Pat...

June 01, 2010, 11:36PM

At Superior and Center streets in Albion sits a throwback to the days of silent films that has fallen silent itself in recent years. However, new efforts are under way to try and make the bright lights of the Bohm Theatre shine in downtown Albion once again.


The Albion Downtown Development Authority and Albion Community Foundation will conduct town hall meetings in the next month to discuss options for saving the Bohm.


"It's an important architectural structure to downtown, and I don't believe downtown could survive without it," said Nidia Hernandez Wolf, executive director of the Albion DDA. "It's smack dab in the middle, and it's very important."


Community meetings


Albion-area residents who want to offer their thoughts on the possibilities for reopening the Bohm Theatre can attend one of two community meetings: 


• 6:30 p.m. June 24 at the Albion District Library, 501 Superior St. 


• 3 p.m. June 30 at the Forks Senior Center, 1418 Cooper St.


Those who can't attend the meetings are encouraged to weigh in on a survey


The Bohm Theatre opened its doors on Christmas Day 1929 and was opened and closed a few times in the ensuing decades, said Elizabeth Schultheiss, executive director of the Albion Community Foundation. The theater has been closed since the fall of 2008.


Schultheiss said she hopes to see the Bohm Theatre put back to use as a movie theater, as it was originally used, and as a place for community performing arts groups to put on shows. She said there's still a lot of hope the old building can be resurrected.


"We've been thinking, ‘How can we come together and work with the county and bring this back?' " Schultheiss said. "People still certainly have hope, and we see it as a sign of potential more than anything."


John King, an Albion resident and a representative on the Albion Youth Theatre's board of directors, said the Bohm will most likely be saved by an individual, unless the community can rally around the cause.


"It's a great old theater. It's really rough in condition, but this is a wonderful project," King said. "What it's going to come down to is an individual or group with hearts of gold and pockets as deep as the sea."


Albion City Manager Mike Herman said various city leaders and community groups met to discuss ways to raise funds for the Bohm. He said it was important to get the public's input before the process went further.


"Sometimes in government we get accused of acting first and then asking for support later, so we're doing this the right way," Herman said. "We have an opportunity to make sure the community is supportive."


Wolf and Schultheiss both said the partnership between the foundation and DDA will be vital. Wolf said the combined fundraising abilities is important.


"The foundation has capabilities and knowledge for going after private funding, and I'm more on the funding from the state-level side," Wolf said. "We're a pretty good team with different capabilities to bring to the table."


Schultheiss said the groups plan to seek grants to avoid asking taxpayers for any money through a millage. She said that's going to be a theme of the town hall meetings.


King said Albion has fallen on rough times in the past few years, and believes the Bohm Theatre could lead to a new lease on life for downtown.


"It's something that could benefit the entire community," King said. "A functioning, multi-use theater makes other things come alive. It's happened before in other places."