The Westcott experiment

The somewhat surprising news that the Westcott Theater is being quickly made-over by its enterprising new owners makes me feel like this is one Syracuse-area revitalization that bears close watching. There’s no real sense of how many actual funds these folks have for their ambitious plans, but one thing that’s different from other revitalization plans we’ve seen: it’s happening very, very quickly – almost feverishly.

Death of old businesses and institutions in Syracuse may be inevitable, but delay in reanimating the corpses could be the factor that ultimately proves fatal. Almost all of the restoration and reinvention efforts in Syracuse focus on buildings that have been empty and unpurposed for years, decades even. Isn’t it time to start anticipating failures and planning for these newly empty spaces well ahead of time, instead of hoping hard and hand-wringing?

That said, if you anticipate failure too far ahead of time, you may have to deal with the specter of gentrification, which presupposes worthlessness according to what the “experts” say, and pushes out businesses (and people) while they are still very much alive. However, it could be that the Westcott Theater has been re-struck while the iron is truly hot. We’ll see.

3 thoughts on “The Westcott experiment

  1. Phil

    I love the plans the new owners have and will definitely patronize the new place, as I did the old place.

    However, two big worries when I read their story in the Post awhile ago. The new guys don’t own the building–the same guy who let it go downhill still owns it. He wouldn’t do anything for the film guy, he apparently is allowing the new guys to do repairs themselves. He benefits from a rehabbed building, will probably result in increased rents or even cancelling lease for more profitable tenant.

    The new guys stated that they were going to self-finance the place until admission prices allowed them to pay expenses and themselves. How deep are their pockets and how popular will the space be?

    Fingers crossed, ’cause its a great idea.

  2. honkcronk

    I grew up in a town with a small theatre. It was not being used for a number a years. Suddenly, a proposal was made to turn it into an small theatre with with productions of Broadway quality. It was hard to believe anyone could pull this off — but it is open and it is beautiful. I believe millions was the sum invested. My hometown is very fortunate to have this happen.

    http://www.johnwengemantheater.com/index2.htm

  3. Jim W.

    I hope they will continue showing high quality independent movies, like Nat did. I really miss seeing good movies there; I also enjoyed the LACK of surround-sound at the Westcott, so that a car door closing didn’t sound like an earthquake if you saw a movie there. But above all, we NEED a place that shows quality flicks—and I hope the distributors don’t let the multi-screens have the same movies and undermine their success.

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