LANCASTER — Efforts to restore a 1920s-era downtown theater got a boost Tuesday with the announcement of a $500,000 grant. In addition, Gov. Steve Beshear also announced $166,400 for a community program that assists people in need.
Garrard County Fiscal Court will use the $500,000 from a federally funded Community Development Block Grant to help restore the Grand Theater. Local leaders hope to make the theater a destination that will host music and other artistic events. But they also want it to be available for use by schools and community groups.
When the Grand opened in 1925, it had 750 seats, plus a large pipe organ and piano in a pit in front of the stage. The venue closed in 1965, and at one time it housed apartments that have since been removed. Some surrounding buildings have already been torn down for parking. The restored building would have about 400 seats.
McKinley Dailey, president of the non-profit group heading the restoration effort, said work on the building could begin as early as September. Fiscal court recently opened three bids, which ranged between $1.7 million and $1.9 million, Dailey said.
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In 2007, the project received a $500,000 federally funded grant for the restoration. By the time that grant had been announced, the non-profit group had already raised $250,000 in a Community Economic Growth Grant and $140,000 in private donations. The non-profit organization also plans a capital campaign to raise additional dollars.
A news release said the theater might be open in time to "capitalize on the thousands of tourists" visiting Central Kentucky for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
"That would be our goal. I don't think it will happen," Dailey said. "Realistically, it will be two years but one year would be a goal for us."
The $166,400 block grant announced Tuesday by Beshear will be used for construction of a new building for the Garrard County Cooperative Parish. Founded in 1987, that service agency operates a food bank, a clothing/household item bank, a job referral program, and provides assistance with utilities for people in Lancaster and Garrard County.
In 2008, the agency distributed food stamps and dry goods to 320 eligible families, and assisted 98 families with rent and utilities.
The new 2,000-square-foot building will be located next to the agency's current building, said Lancaster Mayor Don Rinthen.