GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The roof needs repair and there’s still remodeling to be done, but the most noticeable improvement soon to come to Grand Rapids’ Four Star Theatre will be on the outside.

Better days are ahead for the weathered and worn Four Star’s marquee: $500,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act coronavirus relief funds will help restore it.

“I think it’s the most iconic marquee in the city, certainly,” Four Star owner Marcus Ringnalda said. “The marquee may be a personal priority but also is something that can really be public-facing and show that this is open.”

The Four Star Theatre in Grand Rapids. (Dec. 8, 2022)
The Four Star Theatre in Grand Rapids. (Dec. 8, 2022)

Last week, the Kent County Board of Commissioners approved grants for some of the projects that will get a piece of $127 million in ARPA funds. One of those will turn the 83-year-old Four Star Theatre on S. Division Avenue near Burton Street into a community arts and events center.

“When I say a world-class culture arts venue, that community focus is really important, and that’s why preserving that multiuse idea is really important,” Ringnalda said.

The $500,000 ARPA grant for the Four Star is part of the $4 million Ringnalda hopes to raise for Phase 2 of the project. The old theater needs a new roof, HVAC systems and a host of other improvements.

Built in 1939, the Four Star was a mainstay in Burton Heights as a movie theater its first 40 years and later a concert venue.

“I’ve talked to people who saw their first movies here and I’ve talked to people who saw the loudest concert they ever saw here,” Ringnalda said.

It was also a nightclub and later a church.

  • Inside the Four Star Theatre in Grand Rapids on Dec. 8, 2022.
  • Inside the Four Star Theatre in Grand Rapids on Dec. 8, 2022.
  • Inside the Four Star Theatre in Grand Rapids on Dec. 8, 2022.
  • Inside the Four Star Theatre in Grand Rapids on Dec. 8, 2022.

Ringnalda bought the Four Star in 2017. After a lot of work, pandemic setbacks and $200,000 in initial investments, he opened the doors two months ago.

Now he hopes to bring the community spirit that made the Four Star such a big part of the neighborhood full circle as a multiuse community spot featuring concerts, meeting and fundraising space.

“I think a better question is what won’t happen here? I can’t come up with anything that wouldn’t. This really is a place for everybody,” Ringnalda said.

Ringnalda hopes to have the $4 million needed to complete the project raised by 2024. His plan after that is to walk away and let the community have the venue.

“I’m actively working with a lot of community partners to hand the keys over and do their thing,” Ringnalda said. “It’s that connection to people that really stands out. And what I’m hoping to do here is prepare this place for the next four generations.”