A historic theater that has been the subject of revitalization talks for years is one step closer to turning that discussion into reality.
Renovation of The Reeves Theater, built in 1941 on Main Street in Elkin, could begin sometime in the next year, said Laura Gaylord, Main Street and community manager for the town of Elkin, thanks in part to a grant of up to $100,000 from the N.C. Department of Commerce.
That $100,000 is just a sliver of the funds needed for the project, which includes restoration of the theater and conversion of some of the space into a café and bar. Turning the Reeves into a venue for regional music and entertainment originally was estimated to total about $700,000, Gaylord said, but added time, unforeseen expenses and inflation could push that total to $1 million.
Gaylord estimates Debbie Carson and Dr. Chris Groner, who formed Historic Reeves LLC and purchased the building for $45,000 in September 2013, have about $500,000 of the necessary funds. They currently are seeking other grants.
The Main Street Solutions Award provided by the state commerce department is expected to fund four full-time positions, each with a $25,000 salary, Gaylord said. Those funds will not be released until the group shows it has the jobs in place.
North Carolina Main Street and Small Town Main Street communities have experienced $2.2 billion in public and private investment and a net gain of more than 19,000 jobs since the inception of the program in 1980, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Gaylord said Carson and Groner hope to bring the Reeves back to its original grandeur with its original blue sign and other salvaged pieces. Renovations are expected to begin next year, she said.
"The Reeves Theater has been a meaningful part of Elkin's history since 1941," Gaylord said. "Many in our community have fond memories of the Reeves and have supported restoration efforts in the past."
Discussions of revitalization have been occurring since the theater closed in 1994. The BB&T across the street offered to purchase the property for demolition to provide additional parking for its employees and patrons, but concerned citizens pulled together donations and purchased the building.
The Reeves Theater LLC was established in 1999, but the theater's new owners could not agree on a final blueprint and, in 2007, they gave the property to a nonprofit group interested in restoring it.
Under that group, the Tri-County Citizens Foundation, numerous events were held to raise sufficient funds to fully restore the theater. Some work was done, including the clearing out of asbestos, theater seats and debris. Beams were replaced and the integrity of the structure was restored.
Once again, progress stalled. Then Carson and Groner purchased the property.
"Once the new owners complete this project, downtown will truly benefit from a dedicated music venue that will feature local music in a setting large enough for crowds, but intimate enough to make the experience special," Gaylord said.
"It will also be wonderful to see the façade restored to its original glory, adding even more historical elegance and charm to our cozy Main Street," she said.
A Main Street Solutions Award also was given to Clinton, in eastern North Carolina, for a restoration project. The $200,000 grant will help the town relocate a restaurant to a historic and currently unoccupied building.