Where else in Philly could you have seen The Jackson 5, The Supremes, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, BB King, and Stevie Wonder? The Uptown Theater, of course. Located at 2240 N. Broad Street, just north of Temple University, the Uptown Theater is a beautiful art deco building, built in 1929. Uptown is a 50K sqft building on the National Register of Historic Places that spans six stories- two stories of theater and balcony space, and four stories of offices.
For many years, local and well-known music acts, jazz artists, and bands performed under Uptown’s roof. In the 1970’s, the theater’s acts began to dwindle as artists found larger venues, and the North Philly neighborhood took a distinct turn for the worse. With drugs and violence in the area, the Uptown was forced to close in 1978. In the 1980’s, the building was briefly a movie theater, and then became a church. It was damaged during a major storm, shuttered, and then purchased in 2002 by the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation, whose mission is to stimulate North Philadelphia’s economy and reduce blight. UEDC is in the process of raising funds to completely restore the theater; they estimate costs to be $8.5-10M. UEDC has only raised about $3M so far, of which they are spending a big chunk on phase one – the restoration of the art deco facade and signature Terra cotta tiles.
Coming soon is phase two – The Education and Entertainment Tower at Uptown Theater, a mixed use complex that will include a renovated theater, office space, artist lofts, a restaurant, and a technology center. The theater/auditorium portion seats 2,040, and UEDC plans to restore the gilded interior and the upholstery on the seats once they raise additional money.
Once completed, UEDC projects that the theater could create as many as 200 much-needed jobs for the neighborhood, as well as revitalizing the music/theater scene in North Philadelphia.
Hopefully, it won’t be too long until we can again catch a show at the Uptown.