Developer converting old movie theater into community venue


A look inside the former 4 Star Theater in Grand Rapids from the building's upper level. Courtesy Marcus Ringnalda

The marquee at a former neighborhood movie theater doesn’t tell the story of the building.

With pigeons nested and a tree growing out of the crumbling marquee at the former 4 Star Theater in Grand Rapids, at 1950 Division Ave. S, Marcus Ringnalda is confident the rest his new purchase is solidly built.

Ringnalda purchased the 11,000-square-foot building last week for $160,000, a little more than the building was built for in the 1930s and half of the asking price for the building nearly 25 years ago.

Now, he plans an investment of $1-$1.5 million to clean up the theater and use it as a community gathering spot for concerts, youth activities and worship space. A majority of the cost would be for a new roof, new lighting and a new heating and cooling system.

“What struck me was the ability to seat a lot of people without a lot of effort,” Ringnalda said. “The reality is, for the investment of the scale I’m looking at, it can have a powerful impact to bring hundreds of people into a space that doesn’t exist much in Grand Rapids and definitely doesn’t exist in this neighborhood.”

Ringnalda is taking on the development role for the former theater, which has been vacant for well over a decade, in addition to his full-time role at Grand Rapids-based Wolverine Building Group.

A nonprofit entity will likely be created, as Ringnalda expects he’ll have to seek alternative funding outside of bank financing.

“Anything is on the table,” he said. “The nature of the building drives it toward nonprofit use. I’m the developer, and I’ll get the lights on, but I won’t necessarily keep the lights on. I’m looking for end-use partners. I’m forging ahead, looking for grants, forming a nonprofit, crowdfunding, MEDC.

“One step at a time.”

The neighborhood is ripe for development, Ringnalda said, pointing to the investment The Rapid and city made with the Silver Line bus route, which passes right in front of the building. He likens his project to a catalytic endeavor similar to the revival of the Wealthy Theatre.

“I see something much more diverse than we see now,” he said. “I see more investment in retail and retail that fits the neighborhood, which is a Latino community.” 

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