By Jesse Wood
July 20, 2012. As Boone Public Works staff temporarily dresses the outside of the theatre Friday morning, the Downtown Boone Development Association (DBDA) and the Appalachian Theatre Committee held a meeting at the Jones House to discuss the future of the theater on King Street in downtown Boone.
At the meeting, members of the DBDA and Appalachian Theater Committee recommended continuing its relationship with financial consultants Whitney Jones Inc., which is managing the capital campaign, which has begun its silent phase. For the initial survey, the DBDA hired Whitney Jones Inc. for $25,000 in March.
Whitney Jones of Whitney Jones Inc. said the quiet phase of campaign is “where nothing is said for months until 50 percent of the goal is reached,” adding that the goal will not be announced either. He said campaigns generally don’t announce goals until a substantial chunk of it has been raised, so as not to cause sticker shock and questions of feasibility.
The next step for the resurrection of the old theater is to form a board of trustees and a campaign cabinet and “ultimately the acquisition of the building by the separate nonprofit in 90 to 120 days,” Whitney said.
When the theatre went into foreclosure, the Town of Boone fronted the DBDA a three-year loan worth $624,000 to purchase the gutted theater last year. A nonprofit entity is currently being formed to take over possession of the theater and will manage operations. In the mean time the DBDA is accepting tax-exempt donations that will solely go towards the purchase and restoration of the theater.
Pilar Fotta, the downtown development coordinator for Boone, said the “first priority” is to pay back the Town of Boone, adding that the DBDA owes the town “just over $500,000.”
John Copper, who has been involved with theater restoration project since the beginning and has worked on many capital campaigns in the past, said he was “very confident” about reaching the goal.
“I think it’s a very attainable goal,” Cooper. “If we didn’t feel we could reach this goal, we wouldn’t be launching this campaign.”
Though Cooper wouldn’t name any names, he said a number of “prominent” leaders in the High Country have “stepped forward,” showing their support – likely with wallet in hand – for the project. Also, he added that the project has progressed to where it is now because of “tremendous grassroots support” from the community and the Town of Boone.
Since the DBDA purchased the theatre last September, a wide range of costs regarding completion and/or renovation of the theatre have been thrown out by financial consultants and town officials – from $1 million to $6.2 million. After the $6.2 million figure was thrown out by Whitney Jones Inc., the Appalachian Theater Committee, a few months ago, scaled down the project to a more “feasible” model to cost roughly $4 million.
Until the theater property is official turned over to the yet-to-be-formed nonprofit that will manage renovations and operations, no independent contractors, engineers or architects can be hired to examine the building and estimate construction costs or possibilities, Fotta said, because of municipal regulations.
Fotta added that a historical designation for the theater, which was built in 1938, is being sought, but because the theater is in such “disrepair … a brick shell that doesn’t resemble anything it once was” the designation was not granted. But a retroactive designation is possible, she said.
Because those engineers, architects and independent contractors haven’t add access to the building, no exact financial projects on the restoration have been finalized.
The theater is planned to be named the Doc Watson Appalachian Theater. Even though Doc Watson gave his blessings for naming the theater after him, Cooper said, there are some “legal” hoops to jump through because his name is trademarked.
The theater, which will be restored to its original 1940’s art-deco design, will showcase live music, live theater and perhaps a conference center, Cooper said, in light of the fact that the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center was converted into a dormitory.
Towards the end of the meeting, Cooper said, “I haven’t seen a project that has as much positive impact as this.”
Cooper and Fotta mentioned that the DBDA is still looking for interior photographs of the original 1938 design – if they exist. To donate to the project, mail tax-deductible donations to DBDA—Appalachian Theatre Project, P.O. Box 362, Boone, N.C. 28607. For more information, call Fotta at 828-262-4532.