The Roxian in the 1940s. Courtesy of Roxian Live.

It’s been quiet at the Roxian for more than a decade.

The 90-year-old theater, located 425 Chartiers Ave. in McKees Rocks, closed in 2003 and remained vacant until local entrepreneur John Pergal, owner of Lawrenceville’s Thunderbird Café & Music Hall, and several partners bought the property from the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation in December of 2017.

This week, the renovated Roxian Theatre unveiled the musical lineup for its grand opening extravaganza.

Straight out of Leeds in the U.K., the funk and soul quintet The New Mastersounds will play a free show on May 10, followed by shows from reggae outfit Iration & Pepper on May 12 and the jazz and funk collective Snarky Puppy on May 15.

The Roxian‘s reopening will offer local musicians and touring acts a venue within the 800 to 1,500 seat range, which can be hard to find in the Pittsburgh area. And local leaders expect that the refurbished theater will have broader benefits for the community.

“What a way to open a venue and usher in a new era for our downtown,” McKees Rocks CDC Executive Director Taris Vrcek tells NEXTpittsburgh. “We’ve been talking about it for years and I am still amazed at the caliber of acts being announced for the first few shows at the Roxian.”

Renovations cost $9 million and were funded by a variety of local partners, including the McKees Rocks CDC, The Heinz Endowments and the Hillman Foundation.

The May 10 grand opening will happen on the 90th anniversary of the vaudeville-era Roxian’s initial opening in 1929. It will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring civic, political and musical leaders from across the Pittsburgh region.

The opening of the theater coincides with a wider redevelopment of the McKees Rocks business district along Chartiers Avenue. On Feb. 8, the McKees Rocks CDC received a $1.9 million grant from PennDOT to complete the first phase of a streetscape resurfacing project first proposed in 2015.

“Overcoming years of challenges by working together has allowed a new downtown McKees Rocks to come into focus,” Vrcek says. “The timing of this award coinciding with the May opening of the Roxian Theatre adds momentum to further catalytic development on available properties on lower Chartiers.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.