A downtown Chandler developer wants to lease or sell the historic Rowena Theater as a venue for the performing arts.
Niels Kreipke, a partner with Desert Viking Properties, recently approached the Chandler Cultural Foundation about using the vacant theater at 81 W. Boston St. for performing arts purposes.
Kreipke said downtown Chandler is special, but something is missing.
"We own more property in downtown Chandler, and we really want to make this a cultural destination," he said. "We have great restaurants down here, we have some nice retail shops and we want another reason for people to come to downtown Chandler. We felt a performing arts theater would be a good fit."
Katrina Mueller, manager of the Chandler Center for the Arts at 250 N. Arizona Ave., said the foundation has formed a committee to tour the theater, investigate possible uses and determine if funding is available.
Kreipke said the theater was originally constructed in 1920 in Spanish colonial revival and mission revival architectural styles.
"It was originally built as Chandler’s first movie theater by David A. Jacobson, Chandler’s first elected mayor," he said. "It was originally known as the Chandler Theater and used to play the old silent movies with an organ and sometimes a small orchestra."
The theater went through two name changes before being purchased in 1932 by Joe and Alice Woods, who renamed it the Rowena Theater. They operated the theater until they sold it in 1960. It was purchased in 2001 by Desert Viking, which restored it, earning the property the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation in 2002.