Plans are underway to transform the Black River Landing site into a state-of-the-art outdoor entertainment venue.
These plans include the construction of a new pavilion-style stage that allows the river and Charles Berry Bascule Bridge to serve as a dramatic backdrop and a plaza-like area that connects Black River Landing to Broadway.
Lorain Port Authority and Financial Authority Executive Director Tom Brown unveiled the plan on August 4 in a glitzy video presentation at the Lorain Palace Theatre.
“Lorain can have some nice things,” Brown said.
The current stage, built in 2006, has a vinyl cover.
With the success of the Rockin’ on the River summer concert series and other events like Roverfest, the Port Authority feels the stage is not big enough and the venue could be used even more with improvements .
“For lack of a better term, we’ve outperformed the site in some respects,” Brown said.
Under the current setup, sound and lighting crews have to work all day to set up a Rockin’ on the River concert, then take it down later that night.
Black River Landing hosts a variety of events, such as the International Festival Bazaar and BrewFest, which would also benefit from improvements in the area.
“When we create a permanent stage top with permanent lighting and permanent sound, we just become a better place,” Brown said.
Brad Mullins, chairman of the Port Authority’s board of directors, said the reorganization of Black River Landing is in line with the region’s leaders’ vision of making the town a “destination” for those looking for a night out or to see live music.
“People are going to come just to see the scene,” Mullins said.
Work in progress
The Port Authority has been working on the plan for some time.
He hired Robert Maschke Architects in Cleveland and Realm Collaborative in Columbus after interviewing a range of companies.
Maschke takes care of the structural design while Realm takes care of the landscaping.
Bialosky Cleveland and PCS Companies are also working on the project.
Bialosky would handle construction, while PCS would provide construction estimates, Brown said.
The new stage, which would be oval and slightly larger than the current stage, would be built in such a way that a green room and storage could be integrated into it.
The roof would be metal and wood.
“The wood panel would be below and the steel panels would be above,” Maschke said.
The idea of moving the scene farther would create what he called an “iconic view” of the river and bridge.
“You have an amazing bridge,” Maschke said. “You have an amazing river, and we wanted to tie the two together.”
REALM’s Brian Bernstein said plans to update the area were made with the idea of improving public space that can be used when no shows are scheduled.
“One of the goals was for the amphitheater to still feel like a park and a public space, so that on an afternoon (when there are no shows) you can take your family there and put a blanket on it,” Bernstein said.
The planned walkway would start in what is now a parking lot next to the Duane Building, 401 Broadway.
The parking lot would be converted into a green space that stretches from the Duane Building to Dominos Restaurant, 445 Broadway.
The plan would probably be done in stages.
The stage work would be done first and the catwalk and green space along Broadway added later.
But creating connectivity between Black River and Broadway is an important driver of the plan.
“One of the challenges is that we just don’t connect to Broadway,” Brown said.
But the planned gateway, he said, could “clear up that mystery.”
Cost and financing
The initial cost for the new stage is about $5 million, Maschke said.
But he warned that with supply chain issues and the current economy, prices are changing daily.
Funding, according to Brown, will come from private, public and corporate dollars.
He said he would also start applying for grants and fundraising.
“We’re going to do it,” Brown promised in an interview after the presentation. “We will find a way.
“But we’re not going to stretch our budget where we can’t afford. We have to be smart about it.
As for the project’s completion date, the earliest would be 2024, Brown said.
Construction should take place during the fall, winter and spring, so as not to interfere with the outdoor concert season, he said.
Ward 2 councilor Victoria Kempton said she was impressed with the presentation.
“I loved the idea and the energy behind it,” Kempton said. “I think it’s going to be great for Lorain.”
Brown played down concerns that moving to a bigger and better venue would lead to the end of cheap family entertainment.
A ticket to Rockin’ on the River is only $7, he said.
“We’re not models,” Brown said. “We understand that Lorain loves value programming.
“I assure you that we will always have affordable and family-friendly programming.”
He also scoffed at concerns that the area does not have enough parking spaces.
The architects said the revamped Black River site could hold a crowd of 20,000 for an outdoor show.
Brown said the Broadway area is home to 1,400 parking spaces.
“If we end up having a parking problem in downtown Lorain, then we’re doing something right,” he said.