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Bless Your Heart to the great actors and actress in the Magnolia Arts Center production of Wait Until Dark. We...

Theater reconstruction stated for August, doors to open next spring

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Downtown Theatre, June 13, 2017.

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

After months of clean up, the State Theater on Fifth Street is set to undergo construction late this summer and is expected to open late next spring, developers said.

The theater building, which the city sold to developer CommunitySmith last December, has undergone a variety of work already. The company utilized grant funding from the state to bring it back to environmental code after 20 years of vacancy, as well removing the fly loft structure for structural stability and environmental reasons.

The company is now dealing with what Tom Wisemiller with the Greenville Office of Economic Development calls a “strong structural shell” that has been cleaned out. According to Holton Wilkerson, managing partner of CommunitySmith, the company does not plan on reconstructing the fly system — used to hoist back drops for stage plays -— but will expand the back part of the theater for dressing rooms and other show spaces.

Cost to rebuild the fly system was prohibitive and developers saw little interest producing stage shows that required fly equipment, according to Wisemiller. Instead, the theater will be rebuilt as a multi-use entertainment facility that will host corporate events, large live music performances, spoken word and other acts.

The facility will be operated by Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, which draws nationally known musicians to its facility there. According to Wilkerson, Lincoln Theatre hopes to double book acts that are attracted to Raleigh for shows and bring them into the Greenville area.

Wilkerson said the theater will feature a full bar, and developers will begin the process to acquire a liquor license. The theatre will be designed without fixed seating on the main level, allowing for a variety of different designs. Additionally, there will be a large mezzanine floor.

The theater was originally built in 1914 and closed in the late 1990s. The city purchased the property in 2008 for about $281,000 with general obligation bond funds designated for downtown redevelopment.

The city's Redevelopment Commission was the owner of the property and went through the negotiated offer and upset bid process for the sale. The commission and City Council approved the sale of the property last September.

The purchase price for the property was $20,000, and there is a commitment for a minimum investment of $1 million of private funds to renovate the theater so it receives a certificate of occupancy as a live performance theater by March 31, 2018.

Wilkerson said that his company is excited about the prospect of adding the theater back in Greenville’s culture. He said he thinks that Greenville needs a venue of this size to keep on track with its continued commitment to providing incentives and entertainment to residents in the city.

“There’s been a void, at least with this sized venue; there are places that do live music but nothing with this capacity,” said Wilkerson. “The location is premiere, we’re all excited about that. There needs to continue to be continued offerings in the community that make people want to stick around Greenville, instead of seeking greener pastures elsewhere.”

Contact Seth Thomas Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579.

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