Setback at Queen won’t stop Wilmington renaissance [video]

    (World Cafe Live at the Queen Facebook photo)

    (World Cafe Live at the Queen Facebook photo)

    It’s still unknown who will take over management of the Queen Theater after World Café Live leaves at the end of May.

    But John Rago, Wilmington’s deputy chief of staff for policy and communications, said the news has no bearing on the Queen itself.

    In an email, Rago said, “We were in need of some new energy and a new focus on programming at the venerable Queen Theatre. So this change was probably overdue. The future looks bright for the Queen and for all of the downtown district.”

    When the theater was brought back to life in 2011, there was a lot of optimism about its success and the renaissance of downtown Wilmington. Many, including World Café Live founder Hal Real, saw the Queen’s resurrection as the key piece to finally turning Market Street and the city around.

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    The first year alone, World Café Live drew more than 120,000 people from surrounding states, who were curious about the building and the city, and excited because of the music.

    In the years following, the music venue became the centerpiece around which the LOMA district developed. Soon, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and apartments started popping up. But all of the progress Wilmington experienced in the six years since World Café Live opened wasn’t enough to keep it afloat, from a business standpoint.

    “One of the unique challenges that I think World Café Live had was maintaining a 7-day a week operation,” said Mark Fields, executive director of the Grand Opera House.

    Fields said while this might be a setback, it won’t put a stop to the positive development of Wilmington that is not only well underway, but also gaining momentum.

    “I think we can clearly see it from here. We’re not to it yet, but we can see it and it’s pretty gratifying after a lot of hard work on the part of a lot of people to get there,” Fields said.

    “It’s like reading a book. You turn a page, it’s the next chapter,” said Tina Betz, director of development for the Light Up the Queen Foundation. “World Café Live was the perfect partner with Hal Real and his energy and his ideas to get this project off the ground and to stabilize this area of Wilmington. I mean, the corner of 5th and Market Streets is so different than it was even six short years ago and it’s because of the team that was put together that included World Cafe Live.”

    Betz is excited to move forward with another cooperative partner who will continue to bring great music to Wilmington, and arts and educational programming to the masses through her foundation.

    Public radio station WXPN General Manager Roger LaMay said his station’s relationship with World Café Live in Philadelphia remains solid and that he hopes to “rock in the future,” under the new management at the Queen.

    World Café Live will close on May 25. Shows and events, including this year’s Shine A Light concert fundraiser benefitting the Light Up the Queen Foundation, will go on as scheduled through that time.

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