$845,000 may spur renovation of Holly Theatre

A potential $2.6 million investment could kick-start a major renovation of the Holly Theatre by late summer or early fall.

Randy Bobst-McKay, newly hired executive director of Jefferson Live!, said the theater already has received a firm pledge of $845,000.

Approval for the remainder of the money appears likely, though not completely certain, Bobst-McKay told the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board Thursday.

"We are close to securing the money needed for restoration," he said. "This project will go very quickly."

The money is coming from three different state and federal tax-credit programs in which wealthy investors or corporations invest in projects related to historic preservation or improving blighted areas.

In exchange, the investors receive a tax write-off. Jefferson Live! doesn't have to repay the money.

If Jefferson Live! receives all the money from the tax-credit programs, an additional $800,000 in local donations will be needed over a three-year period to complete the restoration work, estimated to cost in excess of $3 million.

Bobst-McKay said that even if only a portion of the financing is approved, work on the Holly still could begin by late fall.

"It may slow the project down slightly," he said.

MURA board member Chris Corcoran questioned how successful Jefferson Live! would be at obtaining the tax credits since MURA failed in its bid for tax credits for The Commons downtown revitalization project.

Bobst-McKay regarded the Holly's ability to obtain $845,000 so far as a good sign the remaining tax credits could be secured.

"We have a much greater success potential," he said.

The JPR Foundation purchased the Holly for $500,000 and another $500,000 has been spent to refurbish the facade and to repair damaged trusses supporting the roof. The foundation is in the process of turning over ownership of the Holly to Jefferson Live!.

John Snider, co-chairman of the Holly Theatre Restoration Committee, thanked the MURA board for its patience during a contentious dispute between Southern Oregon University and the JPR Foundation, which led to the ouster of then-Executive Director Ron Kramer and forced greater separation with the foundation.

"I didn't anticipate it was going to be a firestorm," Snider said.

Despite the obstacles, the Holly has undergone a transformation with a new marquee and sign, he said.

"It really is no longer a blight in downtown Medford," Snider said.

Snider said he hopes Kramer, who is in the midst of a lawsuit against SOU, will decide to rejoin him as co-chairman of the restoration committee.

He said the creation of Jefferson Live! should mean the Holly restoration takes place without the interference of campus politics.

The interior of the building requires extensive work, including new wiring, air conditioning and other systems to turn the Holly into a performing arts center.

Even though Holly supporters are confident they can raise most of the money from outside sources, they still will seek local donations.

"It is still important that the public participate," said Steve Nelson, president of the JPR Foundation.

The MURA board, which provided $300,000 toward the Holly, expressed surprise and support for the announcement of the outside fundraising efforts.

"My hat's off to you," said board member John Michaels.

Mayor Gary Wheeler, who is also on the board, has been an early supporter of the Holly revival.

"My heart is with the Holly," Wheeler said. "I'm really encouraged, and if there is anything I can do, I'm here."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

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