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Capitol Theatre/Burlington, IA

The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

August 17, 2010 Tuesday

Capitol Theater lands $1M grant: Foundation hopes to raise an equal amount locally.

By Nicholas Bergin, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa

Aug. 17–Renovations of the downtown Capitol Theater and the adjacent building have been put on a fast track to completion thanks to a $1 million I-Jobs grant.

"In the future, we’ll look back at this time and see this as a catalyst for the rejuvenation of our downtown. I think this means great things for the theater, but it means equally great things for our whole downtown," said Becky Anderson, chairwoman of the Capitol Theater Foundation, which has been working since its formation in 2005 to restore the theater for use as cultural and performing arts center.

"I am pleased to announce the I-Jobs grants to support the enhancement of these vital historic areas in our Iowa communities," Culver said in a statement. "The infusion of I-Jobs funding will enable physical improvements to these districts that will create immediate construction jobs short-term, and the Main Street districts will gain long-term permanent jobs as a result of more residents living, working and spending time and money in these community centers, for decades to come."

A provision of the grant requires architecture drawings and construction bids to be finalized within 60 days and project completion in 2012. The foundation hopes to be able to open a renovated Capitol Theater by next April, Anderson said.

"We’ve got the baton now, and we’ve got to finish the race. I hope just because we got this $1 million everyone doesn’t think we’ve got it made now. We’ve got it made a little easier now, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do, or we can lose this thing," foundation committee member Bob Brueck said.

The grant will put a big dent in the $2.7 million price tag for renovating and outfitting of the theater.

Foundation members hope to raise about $1 million of funds from the community to round out the financing and have hired Atlanta-based consulting firm Convergent Nonprofit Solutions to undertake a fundraising feasibility study.

"It’s nice to be almost halfway home even before we start (fundraising)," Brueck said.

Downtown Partners Inc. Executive Director Steve Frevert agreed having a serious chunk of money already in place likely will make fundraising efforts easier.

Other funding sources for the project include, a $94,000 State Historical Society of Iowa grant and $368,000 in historic tax credit reimbursements. Any remaining costs likely will be financed, Anderson said.

The amount of financing "depends on how much we equip the theater to start with. Because a lot of those numbers above the $2 million mark are for the equipment," Anderson said.

The first $2 million should cover the cost of renovating both the Capitol Theater and the first floor of the adjacent building, Anderson said.

At this time, the foundation does not plan to ask the Burlington City Council or Des Moines County supervisors for funds, Anderson said.

Interior demolition will begin with the building next to the Capitol Theater, 211 N. Third St., as the foundation still has a few issues to work out with the State Historical Society, such as getting approval to extend the theater’s stage from 12 to 30 feet and knock holes in the walls to connect the buildings, Anderson said.

"If we’re taking tax credit money for this, we have to work things out with the state historic architect," Anderson said.

Once completed, the theater will host small- or mid-sized live performances, meetings and films. The adjacent building, called the annex, will house dressing rooms, restrooms and office space.

For supporters of downtown, the grant is a breath of fresh air.

"We are excited about moving ahead with this project. We think it’s going to be a great addition to downtown, and we look forward to seeing the Capital Theater open for business in 2012," Frevert said.

The 1930s-era Art Deco Capitol Theater has been closed since 1977.

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