The Trocadero theater will be renovated as a refurbished concert hall and restaurant, according to state archives
The closing of the Trocadero Theater more than three years ago was a dark day for live music in Philadelphia, which lost a venue treasured for its lackluster character and storied past.
The building at 1003 Arch St. in Chinatown, built in 1870, has stood unused since, with no apparent signs of life indicating its future use. It now appears to be on track for a full renovation in the coming years, according to documents from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Program.
The list of 2022 recipients of the state grant program includes an entry for Northwest Arch LLC, a legal entity run by Trocadero owner Joanna Pang. The RACP document shows that a $2.5 million grant was awarded for a site restoration project. Northwest Arch LLC had requested $5 million. The news was first reported by Philly Mag.
Here is the description of the project included in the RACP document:
This project will involve a complete renovation of the exterior and interior of the Trocadéro building. The end product will be a fully renovated first-class concert hall, entertainment space and full-service restaurant. Renovations will include woodwork, paint, flooring, doors and windows, roofing, lighting, signage, staging, bathrooms, domed ceiling, elevator, electrical, plumbing and HVAC upgrades. Careful attention will be given to preserving the historic features and unique architectural elements of the building, including the original gallery benches, the double plaster garland that frames the proscenium, the plaster lions flanking the stage and the ornamental cast iron columns of the auditorium. .
The Trocadero Theater was listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1973, then on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It was designed by Edwin Forrest Durang, a prominent Philadelphia architect who primarily planned churches in the area , including Fishtown’s St Laurentius Church, currently being demolished.
Originally called the Arch Street Opera House, the Trocadero was a popular venue for burlesque and vaudeville shows, as well as opera concerts, musicals and stripteases. After Pang’s father bought the building in the late 1970s, it became a Chinese-themed arthouse cinema before becoming a premier downtown venue for rock and punk shows in the 1990s, with a comfortable capacity of around 1,200 people. .
In its heyday, Barter hosted titans like Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Beck, Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, Neil Young and Radiohead. In recent years, before its closure, the venue hosted stars like Kendrick Lamar and Kacey Musgraves. Music fans could count on Barter for just about everything in between, from Pavement, Elliott Smith and Guided By Voices to Rancid, Lamb of God and Titus Andronicus.
Over the past decade, the emergence of larger, more modern venues in Philadelphia, from the Union Transfer to World Cafe Live and the Theater of Living Arts, has reduced the Trocodero’s ability to book shows. The more recent openings of the remodeled Met, Fillmore and Brooklyn Bowl also seemed to point to a rocky road for Troc as a concert venue.
Tightness filed for bankruptcy in 2011, but managed to restructure the Trocadero the following year and keep it afloat for another seven years. Devoted fans tried to stop it from closing in 2019, but those attempts failed and Pang admitted she couldn’t keep up.
“It was my home,” Pang said Variety when the Barter closes. “But the business landscape has changed over the last five years. It’s harder now to be an independently run venue – it’s a different world. There are bigger venues run by more major concert companies.”
Since the site was closed, Pang has not spoken publicly about the road ahead for the building.
The RACP grant is a positive sign that something is afoot to restore Troc to its former glory, with a restaurant that can help anchor the location. A timeline for the project was not specified in the project description.
All signs point to Philadelphia reclaiming one of its most intimate concert halls, one whose history may attract larger acts than the small capacity suggests. It’s going to be tough to score tickets when Barter makes its eventual return.