AUGUSTA — The Colonial Theater has gotten another $100,000 boost from the Parkhurst family.
The glass company owned by members of a family, which has already donated $200,000 to efforts to save and restore the downtown Augusta theater has ponied up another $100,000 to try to accelerate the project, which so far hasn’t moved as fast as organizers would like.
Augusta-based Oakes and Parkhurst Glass, owned by brother and sister Tobias and Soo Parkhurst, made its second, $100,000 donation to the theater.
The donation brings the total funds either donated or committed to the restoration, expected to cost about $8 million, to $1 million. That includes the now-$200,000 from Oakes and Parkhurst, and $100,000 from Richard Parkhurst who is the former owner of the business and father of Tobias and Soo.
Tobias Parkhurst, president of the theater’s board of directors, said much has been accomplished at the downtown venue, but the project and fundraising isn’t happening as fast as they’d like.
He said a priority is to hire an executive director, ideally by the end of the year, to accelerate the pace of the project and fundraising for it.
“Really our goal right now for the theater is it’s time to make a push, to really get this campaign going,” by hiring an executive director to drive efforts to raise funds, Tobias Parkhurst said Monday. “We feel like we’ve gone as far as we can as an all-volunteer organization. The project is not going as fast as we’d like.”
Sam Tippet, vice-president of the theater’s board of directors, said the donation, announced at a fundraising event Friday, was a pleasant surprise.
“We were thrilled and delighted by the gift, which is their second gift of $100,000,” Tippet said. “I am really pleased with the leadership that organizations like this are showing towards the project, and hope that it will serve as an example to other companies and individuals about the importance of this building and this project in our city.”
Tobias Parkhurst said the city of Augusta has been good to his family and their business, and they wanted to step up their commitment to restoring the theater they see as a key piece of the larger revitalization of the city’s downtown.
“We had the means, so we stepped up to double down,” with the second $100,000 donation, Tobias Parkhurst said. “If you’re in charge of an organization, the best thing you can do is lead by example. I wouldn’t ask somebody to donate money to a project I wouldn’t donate to.”
Soo Parkhurst said they hope the donation will prompt others to come forward with donations to restore the theater.
“We’re hoping if people see how invested we are, that may spark some new interest,” she said. “We hope we get some big donations coming through. A restored theater can bring a lot of economic development. It’s going to be a great staple for downtown Augusta. It is going to be a destination, which is what we want Augusta to be.”
Proponents believe a restored theater able to host movies, live theater and music, and other events that would bring people to Augusta — and its historic riverfront downtown — where they would spend money in local businesses.
“This donation speaks plainly to the overwhelming generosity of (Oakes and Parkhurst) Glass and the Parkhurst family,” said Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance. “It’s rare indeed to see a family give so much back to their community, the way this one has, and Augusta is very lucky to have them.
“I really hope this inspires others to follow their lead and get behind this worthwhile project,” he added. “It’s a game changer for both our community as well as our downtown.”
The theater was built in 1912 and rebuilt after a fire in 1926, first showing silent films, with an orchestra pit in front of the stage. A sound system was added later and the theater showed movies for many years. It closed in 1969 and has sat, vacant, since.
Officials anticipate the project will also receive historic preservation tax credits worth around $2 million.
Plans for the restoration of the building include a larger stage, a new ceiling, and the addition of a 13,000-square-foot new building attached to the existing structure, to provide space for bathrooms and to make the building accessible to people with disabilities.
Construction work likely to be among the next priorities, according to Tobias Parkhurst, includes masonry improvements and the installation of temporary lighting and stairs.
“We’ve spent every dime we’ve raised on the building,” he said. “Which is nice in some ways, because it shows we’re making progress. But I hope that’s not sending the message to people that we don’t need help. We do.”
Indiana Ballet Theatre celebrated its 12th annual fundraiser for the Classical Arts Centre (CAC) Project earlier this month at Halls of St. George in Schererville. The sold-out event received more than 250 guests gathered to raise funds for the project IBT is leading, to restore and preserve the former Nurses Home, a historical Georgian Revival building at 2323 N. Main St.
The future CAC’s mission is to enrich lives by creating a destination, preserving history, providing educational and performance opportunities for music, dance, theater and the arts. In an effort to demonstrate its vision for arts inclusivity, guests enjoyed an evening of young performers from Northwest Indiana, including IBT Company, Plum Grove Music, Merrillville High’s String Quartet, Crown Point High School Boys Choir, and 11-year-old Carter Walkowiak of Crown Point with his vocal and piano rendition of “Lost Boys.”
“The dancers from IBT were amazing. These young people work so hard and have so much talent,” said Carol Highsmith, IBT executive board president. “This was a perfect example of how critical the arts are. The Classical Arts Centre will provide many ways for people of all ages to be educated in many aspects of the arts.”
“We had a great time at the ball, and think it was the most animated live auction we have ever seen,” said Dian Reyome, Community Relations & Financial Capabilities officer at Centier Bank. “The entire evening was jam-packed with entertainment and showcased some of all the CAC project will offer our entire area.”
Funds raised at the IBT Diamond Ball will be used toward Phase II of the CAC Project, the interior of the building. Phase I was completed last year and the building was also deeded to IBT by Lake County commissioners that year.
CHATHAM — Kanye West’s efforts to help with the long-planned rehab of Chatham’s Avalon Regal Theater has the support of Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), but she tempered expectations because of the amount of work that needs to get done there.
“I support [Kanye West] and I support anyone else that wants to give money to the Regal to make sure that building is brought up to code,” the neighborhood’s longtime alderman said. “Anybody that wants to bring the Regal up to code, I fully support it. I’m really happy that Mr. West is going to invest in a historic landmark. I couldn’t be happier about it.”
Avalon Regal owner Jerald Gary said in Building Court this week that the superstar rapper would lend financial support toward the reopening of the famed movie palace, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Gary, who confirmed he is working with West, said this week he did not have the $150,000 necessary to bring the building up to code but with West’s support it could be done, according to the Sun-Times.
Gary launched a GoFundMe page on Aug. 16 to help raise the funds. Thus far, that effort has raised just $665.
Gary did not return calls Thursday. West was not available for comment.
Ald. Harris said in her last visit to the Avalon Regal — more than a year ago — much work needed to be done before the building could reopen, including roof repairs.
She said while she had not yet been fully briefed on the details of Gary’s latest court hearing, she said it’s her understanding he is complying with the court’s order. But she estimated time is not on Gary’s side in terms of meeting the goals the court set before him.
Gary hopes to be allowed to host guests at the theater for the Open House Chicago architecture tour Oct. 13 and 14. His next Building Court hearing is Oct. 10, the Sun-Times reported.
“The things the city is asking him to do he would’ve had to have started on yesterday to get them done in two weeks for the court date,” she said. “He needs to get started on it right now so he can show substantial compliance by the court date. He could very well get somebody in and get things done in a short period.”
Still, the Avalon Regal will need substantially more than $150,000 to be restored to its full glory, Harris said.
“There’s millions of dollars worth of work that needs to be done,” she said. “He still has a different set of issues to overcome to go into full use.”
Gary has told Block Club Chicago he wants to reopen the theater to help spark a transformation of the the area surrounding it. He envisions a booming entertainment area, with his theater serving as a community beacon.
“I think the Avalon Regal Theater is important not just from an economic perspective but also from the perspective of giving the youth an outlet to celebrate our culture and our heritage in a positive and constructive way,” Gary said. “I think the reason we have so much violence in the community is because there is a general lack of opportunities whether they be jobs or arts programs.”
The city granted the Regal landmark status on June 17, 1992, which prohibits it from being demolished or its exterior altered extensively unless for safety reasons.
The Moorish-style building on 79th first opened in 1927 as the Avalon Theater, designed by movie palace architect John Eberson.
The original Regal Theater in Bronzeville showcased several prominent black entertainers, including Lou Rawls, Nat King Cole, Etta James, Miles Davis, Curtis Mayfield and Cab Calloway. That building was torn down and the Avalon was renamed the New Regal in the 1980s.
Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, an organization dedicated to preserving and revitalizing unique Chicago architecture, urban spaces and neighborhoods, said through several meetings with Gary he believes he has good intentions with the Avalon Regal.
He said while the exterior of the building may need repairs the interior has been “magnificently” restored and maintained over the decades.
“We’re hoping that Jerald has a good solid plan with his new partners and we wish him all the best,” Miller said. “It would really be remarkable if this theater could be returned to an entertainment menu in use that would really benefit the whole community.”