New York students look to revamp Robins Theater

Originally posted on on February 24, 2014
By WKBN Staff

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Big city thinking is helping with a renovation project in Warren.

Students from a New York City school spent the weekend getting to know the in and outs of the dilapidated Robins Theater.

Beyond the paint chips and dusty seats, the beauty of the Robins Theater still resides. For the project’s co-organizer, Melissa Holmes, restoring the Robins is just part of the plan to revitalize downtown.

“You don’t understand the magnitude until you come in here and it’s just breathtaking,” said Holmes.

A Warren native, Holmes has heard the stories of the Robins. She’s always wondered about the 1,200-seat theater that closed in 1974. As it turned out, her boyfriend’s uncle owns the building.  Now she’s spearheading an effort to renovate the Robins.

“The long term goal in this project is to identify the community’s wants and needs. This project has never before been looked at in such a way,” said Holmes.

To get started, she got in touch with her professors at The New School of Design in New York. Sixteen students spent the weekend in Warren walking though the aisles and stairs of the theater so they can  come up with ideas on how to  bring new life to the building.

“One of them would be to use this for workshops like theater, dancing recording, really bringing youth in here is going to be amazing,” said New School of Design student, Anna Pena.

“You can see the glory of how it used to be. Walking down the velvet row of seats,” added fellow student David Braha.

Student teams will focus on things like design, re-use and financing the project.

“What they’re trying to do is really create a cultural vibrancy in this area so that more people, more businesses will want to locate here,” said New School of Design instructor, Kevin McQueen.

They’ll be back in Warren in a few months to present their research.

“It lends itself naturally to an arts and culture center but we have some serious needs in our community, especially with youth engagement and so we’re really looking at this and hoping the community will share with us what they want this space to be,” said Holmes.

For Holmes, the project is personal. She’s traveled the world, but her heart is in her hometown.

“Warren has so much opportunity and that is the most important aspect of this whole story. You can make anything happen. We can make Warren what we want it to be,” Holmes said.

original article:

Alum Melissa Holmes Collaborates with Milano and Parsons Student Team

old seats

Inside The Robins Theater, Warren, Ohio. Photo by Sarah Bokone of Boko Photo

original article on

Melissa Holmes, an alumna of Milano’s Urban Policy Analysis and Management program, is spearheading a revitalization project to repurpose the historic Robins Theater in her hometown of Warren, Ohio. In her student days, Melissa participated in Milano’s Community Development Finance Lab (CDFL). Melissa thought her current endeavor would make a great CDFL project and contacted faculty member Kevin McQueen.

This February, a team of 13 students and three faculty members from The New School Urban Collaborative, a partnership between Milano’s Community Development Finance Lab and Parsons School of Design Strategies, travel to Warren to begin a community engagement process. The team is partnering with local artists and students to engage community members in a plan for adapting the Robins Theater for reuse. Melissa is excited about the collaboration, “I think the intersection of students with locals is really going to create something amazing.”

Read more about the project in this article from the local paper, Residents work to restore Robins theater, downtown. Please note the Tribune Chronicle got an important detail wrong. Melissa is a proud alumna of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy.

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