BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — There were times over the last year that Will Mason wondered if his dream of redeveloping the Woodlawn Theatre was even possible. But after setbacks and delays, he says the project is back on track and construction could begin this fall.
Mason, the owner of Mason Music, originally planned to redevelop the theatre in late 2019, adding a live music venue on one side and a branch of the Mason Music School on the other. But when he encountered construction and permitting issues, he had to halt the process early in 2020.
It turned out to be a good thing.
“We were able to just hit pause on the project and kind of ride it out, which was very fortunate for us versus if we had already built it out and completed construction and tried to open, and then the pandemic hit,” Mason said. “So, I feel like we were very fortunate in that regard.”
But it’s been a frustrating process since, sending Mason into a “dark night of the soul” moment earlier this year. The delays have stretched beyond a year, and he wasn’t sure if the redevelopment would ever happen. Then he started talking with people in the Woodlawn community, supporters of the project and leaders who had assisted with the process. Their excitement hadn’t waned. It reignited Mason’s enthusiasm.
“It’s not about me expanding my business or opening something for me,” he said. “It really is for the community. And to see the hope that that’s bringing to people, it’s like, ‘okay, cool, I’ve got to get myself together here and make this happen,’ because it’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than my company and what we’re trying to do.”
Mason said his goals for the venue remain the same, but he’s going back to the drawing board on pricing since that has changed due to the pandemic. He hopes to open the theatre by March of 2022, and he says it will be a big moment when it happens.
“I am going to go ahead and start stocking up on Kleenex,” he said. “I get emotional about that kind of thing, and so when it finally opens, whenever we have the opening night, I’m sure I will be a mess because it’ll just be such a rewarding process at the end.”