By Jesse Wood
Though matinees and evening features are yet on the program, the Appalachian Theatre’s stunning black-and-teal façade and multi-colored marquee are together the highlight of King Street these days.
On Friday, Dec. 2, the first public lighting of the Blue Ridge Energy Marquee will take place during the first Friday art crawl in downtown Boone. The marquee is expected to be lit from 4 to 11 p.m. and will read “Happy Holidays” on one side and “Christmas Parade, Saturday, 11 a.m.” on the other side.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, the marquee will be lit most of the day, and volunteers will sell Appalachian Theatre t-shirts in front of the theatre at 10:30 a.m. and talk to passersby about the restoration project. If you can’t make it to downtown Boone this Friday or Saturday, the next public lighting is scheduled for Dec. 31 from 5 to 7 p.m.
The intent of the project is to historically restore the theatre to its original 1938 art deco design. The Town of Boone fronted the Downtown Boone Development Association a three-year loan worth $624,000 to purchase the gutted theatre in foreclosure in the fall of 2011. The DBDA and the project-specific non-profit, Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, eventually paid the town back for purchasing the theatre in 2013.
In June, the ATHC announced the public phase of the capital campaign after raising more than $6 million for the project – or nearly 80 percent of the $7.85 million goal. A separate goal of $750,000 was also announced to cover operating expenses for the first three years prior to the opening of the facility.
Interior demolitions and exterior renovations, which include the façade and marquee, are part of phase 1, which is just about complete by VPC Builders. The first phase should be done in the coming days; all that’s really left to do on the exterior is finishing up below the marque as crews wait on some of the glass for the exterior doors and box office.
Phase two features finishing the community room and lobby, which is called the front of the house. This will likely include an elevator and some restrooms. Phase 2 has yet to begin and be bid out. Both phase 1 and phase 2 are fully funded with cash-in-hand or pledges.
The execution of the final phase is perhaps 10 to 12 months away, ATHC Chair John Cooper said on Thursday.
ATHC Chair John Cooper expressed excitement about the exterior work completed to date and said that the nonprofit is still looking to raise funds to be able to complete the entire project.
“It’s going very well. We are very excited about phase 1 being completed and are contemplating starting phase 2. We haven’t gotten all the numbers to bid,” Cooper said. “We don’t have all the money to complete the theatre, but we can continue to work.”
While the original cost was estimated to be $7.85 million, Cooper noted that construction costs are coming in higher than initially anticipated. Cooper said he wasn’t sure if it was going to cost less than $10 million or more than $10 million at this point.
Cooper noted that the nonprofit has had to back up and punt a bit.
Cooper said the group is taking the build-as-you-raise-money approach to ensure the highest-quality theatre – one that is versatile for theatre, dance, music festivals and more – without going into debt. So instead of cutting back on the design to build the theatre quicker, the process is moving slower as more funds are raised.
Cooper mentioned that the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country is accepting contributions of any size, so if someone would like to make a contribution in honor of someone as a gift this holiday season, that is certainly possible.
“It is really gorgeous and I think the community is going to embrace it,” Cooper said. “We need help and everybody’s support. The theatre is for the community. It will be their theatre.”
For more information, click to www.savetheapptheatre.com.
Tours will be made by appointment by phone at 828 865-3000 or email at [email protected].