The Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)
April 19, 2010 Monday
OPINION; Pg. 14
Restoration of theater a victory for Holyoke
The 91-year-old Victory Theater has been dark for more than 30 years, but the beauty that lies beneath its crumbling plaster and faded seats is evident to anyone with an eye for art and history.
Mahogany walls, marble floors, allegorical murals and Art Deco flourishes still shine through the decay and debris.
Over the years, plans to restore the Victory to its former glory never got off the ground, but the city wouldn’t give up hope that its rebirth could be accomplished. Now the project is happily back on track – thanks to the efforts of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, the non-profit group that bought the building from the city for $1,500 in September.
The Victory’s red-carpet moment won’t come until Dec. 30, 2012 when it’s scheduled to reopen. But there was plenty of scope for imagination on Friday when state officials held a press conference to announce that historic tax credits have been approved toward the $27 million renovation. The first installment, a $600,000 grant, was presented to developers at the 81-89 Suffolk St. property. The arts group is counting on such federal and state tax incentives to lure investors to finance the project along with government grants and private contributions.
Applause is in order for the building’s new owner – and the city of Holyoke, which has resisted the temptation to demolish the theater, which was once a venue for shows featuring the Marx Brothers and Bing Crosby. By the time it closed in 1979, it was only showing movies.
Sadly, so many of the region’s old movie theaters, which gave cities and towns so much vibrancy and character, have been boarded up, or demolished. There are some exceptions – notably the old Calvin Theater in Northampton, which has added to the city’s vibrancy as an entertainment destination. We think the Victory’s restoration could have a similar effect on the city of Holyoke. A number of encouraging developments – including the opening of a $80 million to $100 million high-performance computing center along the city’s old canal system – are on the horizon for the Paper City.
We look forward to the Victory’s reincarnation.
A refurbished theater and a communications technology center are nice ingredients for a city on the move.