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The Return of the Clyde Theater

An iconic Fort Wayne landmark rumbles back to life

By Jim Mount

Fort Wayne Reader

2013-12-08


The old Quimby Theater, originally known as the Clyde, isn't what it used to be. Years of abandonment and neglect have taken its toll on this once proud jewel of the Southwest side of Fort Wayne. Once filled with the smell of popcorn, the flicker of film and the murmur of an eager audience, the theater today sits in stark and desolate dereliction. The interior is eviscerated, a half inch puddle of water on the floor of the front foyer and the smell of musty years hangs in the air.

Built in 1951, the theater was originally named the Clyde, after Clyde Quimby, a Fort Wayne businessman and movie mogul in the early part of the last century. The venue eventually separated into two theaters and renamed the Quimby. Finally shuttering in the early 90's the theater saw some failed attempts to renovate it and was finally abandoned.

All that is set to change, however, once Rick Kinney infuses his vision onto the Clyde.

Kinney, president of Even Keel Events LLC, is the latest to take on the challenge of the Clyde but with an energy and a vision, Kinney sees great things in the future not only for the Clyde but for the Quimby Village as well, sparking a darkened corner of Fort Wayne with potential to transform a corridor leading into downtown into a cultural renaissance.

The general idea Kinney has first and foremost, is to establish a one of a kind venue in the shell of the iconic building. As Mack O'Shaughnessy, the Executive Assistant Bookkeeper for Even Keel Events explains in the choice of the Clyde; “Rick had been looking around for years for anything. He'd looked at the Rialto and a couple of other different places but he never found a spot where he could make his idea work. He got lucky with this place — nobody owned it, the city got it, so he got it for a really good price.”

As to what's in the idea for a venue? The ideas being tossed around make for a pretty broad category of arts, entertainment and rental potential. “Music and arts,” O'Shaughnessy says. “Anybody can rent it out, you can have wedding receptions here but for the most part it would be like a rock venue but you could have most anything really.” With a standing capacity of 2000 to 2100 people, the use for a concert hall is compelling. “It would be used mostly as a rock venue, because of the wide open area as opposed to a seated venue, people can move around, dance and get a little crazy.”

The fire behind the idea, Rick Kinney, is no stranger to the theater. The Technical Director at the Embassy, theater is in Kinneys blood. “I'm obsessed with theaters,” he says. “I love theaters, I love historic buildings, I love music, I love art, I love performance and I love parties.”

Kinney, also the drummer for the band Moser Woods, graduated from the Recording Workshop in Ohio and has a lot of ideas about bringing in bands that wouldn't normally stop in Fort Wayne because of the lack of appropriate venues. Having a venue available like the Clyde is an option that Kinney believes will be invaluable. What's going to make the Clyde work is a lot of energy and drive, and the potential payoff for the shopping center, the area, and the city in general is big and worth the Kinney’s lack of sleep. “When I look at the Quimby Village situation, I look at in a holistic approach,” Kinney says of the problems facing the shopping center. “The holistic way of treating a disease is to go right to the source and treat it from there. This is the only thing that 's going to save the Quimby Village, and not only will it save Quimby Village, it will have what I like to call the ‘contagious factor,’ where property values will increase in the area, people will want to fix up their own areas, other people from outside will start looking to invest in other properties in the area.”

The Clyde, as it currently stands, is what's the problem with the Quimby Village, Kinney says, not so much other issues that people may think. “It's not the parking lot, it's not the crime rate — crime really isn't all that bad in this area. It isn't the neighborhoods; the neighborhoods are great, the neighbors are awesome, there's some really great businesses located out here, and we're across the street from one of the best parks in Fort Wayne, Foster Park. We're also right down the street from Old Mill Road, the historic Oakdale neighborhoods, West Rudisill… it's all awesome out here. Right now, the whole problem with this corner is the fact that this theater has been sitting empty for 13 years. We're working to change that, the first thing we're going to do is get the theater interior done, then the outside finally the parking lot and then we're on our way to treating the disease.”

Work is already in progress. About $133,000 has been invested in the Clyde and the conjoining retail space, one wing which is expected to become a studio and the other wing which is progressing as a bar/restaurant. Kinney also has plans to open the upper storage area into rental halls. Other improvements include new windows, doors, locks, pest and environmental control, plumbing, roof and drainage, security and insurance among other things.

As far as what a newly renovated, minted and thriving Clyde concert hall would provide to the city, the potential is great according to Kinney: “We're talking about bringing in a lot of people from Ohio, Southern Michigan, all of Northern Indiana, these people are going too get hotel rooms, buy food from local restaurants, buy liquor from local bars and ours and ultimately they're going to be patrons of local businesses and maybe spark an interest in wanting to move to and live in Fort Wayne. In regards to what the Broadway Corridor could look like my idea and my goal is like what Broad Ripple has done down in Indianapolis. Arts, entertainment, and an atmosphere of a fresh, reviving energy. I look at Quimby Village and the Clyde Theater as what could be the cornerstone of what could be the Broadway Corridor.”

Kinneys attitude sums up what he expects to bring to the Clyde and the Clyde to bring to Fort Wayne: “Culture is created by people, citizens and artists and if you look at other cities like what Fort Wayne doesn't have I believe we are on the cusp of some really awesome and great things.”

With the groundwork being laid, Kinney is eager for the renovation work to begin in earnest and help bring a dormant icon roaring back to life.

If you're interested in finding out more about the Clyde Renovation you can contact Rick Kinney at rick@evenkeelevents.com. Kinney also has a Facebook page called “The Clyde.”

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