Aug. 25—Fox Theatre Executive Director Scott Stolarz gave an update to the Centralia City Council at Tuesday night's meeting regarding the ongoing restoration work to the historic 1930s-era theater, and things appear to be going smoother now than they were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the major tasks for the $7.2 million project have been completed so far, Stolarz said, including an earthquake retrofit, new roofing, new HVAC system, installing ADA-accessible flooring, new fire suppressant as well as new electrical and plumbing work.
A lot of the remaining work is cosmetic, Stolarz told the council, and their tentative timeline for project completion — if all the cards fall into place — would be fall 2022.
"We're really proud of the progress we've made and we're looking forward to the next handful of steps," he said.
But even as the project makes strides, the theatre nonprofit is still looking to secure the last bit of funding. The Fox Theatre has currently secured $2.5 million so far in fundraising for the project, a number that doesn't include $1 million each from the city and state, and they're looking for another $2.7 million.
Stolarz said they're hoping some of those funds come from a pair of federal tax credit programs that could present a "six- or seven-figure opportunity" for the Fox Theatre through an investor. They're currently working with a consultant who believes the Fox Theatre nonprofit has a good shot of securing those funds and finding an investor, and Stolarz said it's a "very low risk to almost no risk proposition."
The two federal programs they're looking at are the historic preservation tax credit and new market tax credit.
The historic preservation credit, Stolarz said, would allow an investor to use a 20% tax credit in exchange for any project involving the rehabilitation of a historic building. That program, he said, would bring in about $1 million for the Fox Theatre.
The new market tax credit, which Stolarz said functions more like a competitive grant, would help bring funds into the project similar to the historic tax credit.
"Should we get both these programs, it would bring us just about to the number that we would need to finish the restoration and complete the remainder of our fundraising," he said, noting that they're strong candidates for this program if they can find an investor.
Stolarz said there are a couple other contingencies. First off, the city would likely have to extend the Fox Theatre nonprofit's lease another 20 years to reflect more long term occupation and the city may have to cover some of those tax credit revenues up front since they're paid out over five years.
Councilor Kelly Smith Johnston voiced hesitancies with the city covering some costs upfront and with the current timeline of the building.