A great community, deserves a great downtown.
This was the mission of the Colonial Fox Theater Foundation board in 2007 and it still holds true today, CFTF Executive Director Vonnie Corsini said.
“What we started saying in 2007 is a great community deserves a great downtown,” she said. “We feel just as strongly about that statement and what is very exciting to us is that we see that the downtown is beginning to show its greatness and it’s beginning to emerge.”
Although the theater and Block 22 are transforming downtown, they were not the beginning of all the changes people see today.
“People started on this long before,” Corsini said. “It just takes a long time before a drip begins to form a puddle and then a pond and then a lake.
“By the time it is a pond or a late you sometimes forget where that first drip came from.
“We had lots of people who came before us, the Hotel Stillwell when it was renovated and brought that beautiful historic building back, the Pittsburg Memorial Library renovations were part of this all happening, even the Bess Hotel was also part of an investment in downtown. And, while it didn't seem like things really took traction until we began to see Block 22 happen, it was.
“It was all of those beginning pioneers of preservation and restoration contributed to what we are now seeing as the emergence of the downtown vibrancy.”
Phase one, “to save the theater” is complete, which was a “huge milestone,” Corsini said.
After receiving donations reaching above $2 million dollars, the theater’s environment is now safe, warm and dry, Corsini said. Donations came from annual donors, tours, grants, other donors and events.
“The community has supported us and has embraced the vision we put forth and recognized the benefit that a restored theater would have not only to the downtown district, but also to the entire community and the region,” she said.
Now they are moving forward with “phase two” which entails finding an architect firm and creating a “master plan” for phase two renovations.
“They will create a plan based on the input they will have from the community and from the business plan that we have based on what we need for the facility,” Corsini said. “They will create a master plan and we’ll get an estimate on what that will cost.”
More information on architects and community surveys will be released when available.
Corsini said over the past few years, she has watched people taking the tour of the theater walk through in awe of the theater and listened to their comments of excitement.
What it mean to the community extends past the potential entertainment, Corsini said, “but what it will mean for the economic impact to the community.”
“When a community has a vibrant downtown and an often a vibrant downtown can be defined by the entertainments opportunities in the district, as well as the shopping opportunities and the living opportunities — a three pronged approach, retail, shopping and residential,” she said. “When you have a vibrant downtown such as that it spreads out the rest out to the community then you are able to attract and retain … businesses, teachers and professors, they are more likely to retain them.”
Corsini said the community currently has several “excellent” service and businesses, having the downtown renovated will make the the area even greater.
Deputy City Manager Jay Byers agreed.
“Downtown is the face of the city of any town and it is important downtown is vibrant because it is the first and main impression,” he said, adding it could have a ripple effect through the rest of the community.
He said renovation of the theater “shows the town has depth and character” and taking care of historical buildings shows the town cares.
“It shows that we want to keep things around and keep repairing them to create create something meaningful and relevant,” he said.