Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra finds new home in historic Warner Grand Theatre

Client need

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO), one of the finest orchestras in the country, performs more than 135 concerts each season in venues throughout Wisconsin. Since its inception in 1959, the MSO has found innovative ways to give music a home in the state, while developing music appreciation and talent among area youth and raising the national reputation of Milwaukee.

The MSO’s current home is Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center in downtown Milwaukee, which is also used by other major arts organizations in town. As the Marcus Center continued to get busier and busier, it created a need for the MSO to find a new venue of its own – and it found its new home in the historic Warner Grand Theatre.

The Warner Grand Theatre, which opened in 1931, has been closed since 1995. In December 2017, the MSO announced plans to acquire and renovate the historic theater, which will become its dedicated performance center.

The MSO has raised a significant portion of the $90 million project cost, which is part of an overall $139 million capital campaign that includes the renovation, an increase in the MSO’s endowment, retirement of a frozen pension plan and bridge funding of MSO’s operations during the construction period. However, a gap still exists in the project’s capital stack.

Baker Tilly solution

The project finance team within Baker Tilly is assisting the MSO with structuring its tax credit transaction for this historic building renovation project, including analyzing qualified rehabilitation expenditures (QREs) and working with potential state and federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) investors and bridge lenders to help complete funding.


Baker Tilly’s financial modeling and project structuring has assisted the MSO in identifying the remaining funds necessary for the renovation project, which consists of up to approximately $10 million in state HTC and up to approximately $10 million in federal HTC. Currently, the Baker Tilly team is sourcing HTC investors and has received positive responses and letters of intent from multiple parties for both the state and federal HTC, as well the tax credit bridge loan. Construction is underway and the grand opening of the Grand Theatre as the new home of the MSO is expected in the fall of 2020.

Check back for project updates as the new home of the MSO nears completion.

“Baker Tilly, having a presence in Milwaukee, truly understands the economic, cultural and educational impact the MSO has on the community and our desire to find a permanent home in the community we serve. Their team has helped to ensure the level of Historic Tax Credits that would be necessary to complete financing for this historic renovation project, which has helped get the project off the ground.”


Mark Niehaus – President and Executive Director, The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly project finance specialists can help, contact our team.