App Theatre capital campaign begins
by Anna Oakes
A silent phase for the campaign has already begun. The consultant and leaders of the effort have set an internal fundraising goal that will be announced once the campaign hits 50 percent of the goal.
There is no public announcement of the goal at this point, but our recommendation is to move ahead, Jones said at a meeting held at the Jones House Community Center Friday.
The town of Boone purchased the Appalachian Twin, a movie theater on King Street built in 1938, in a foreclosure sale late last year for $624,000. The town agreed to front the money for the purchase to the Downtown Boone Development Association, which has three years to repay the town.
The DBDA plans to help create a new nonprofit organization to manage the theater and raise the funds necessary for the building's restoration.
A committee of interested individuals from multiple disciplines has met regularly since December 2011 to identify community needs and potential users for the building, develop design and construction plans and begin fundraising, which led to the hiring of Whitney Jones.
Jones said the firm's survey found incredibly strong support for restoring the theater and for doing so in memory of Doc Watson. Watson, who passed away in May, attended the meeting in December and voiced approval at the suggestion of using his name on the theater.
John Cooper, owner of Mast General Store and a leader in the theater restoration effort, said he is currently seeking legal approval to use Watson's name.
The survey results indicated that would be a strong help to the theater, I think, in terms of recognition, Cooper said.
Rough cost estimates for renovations have ranged from $4 million to $7 million, although the higher figure was for a much-expanded renovation concept that the Appalachian Theatre Committee has since scaled down.
A concept presented in April by the Appalachian Theatre Committee's building and design subcommittee proposes to renovate the theater within its existing footprint with a small addition in the back. The original theater seated 999, but because of current building codes and wider seating, the group thinks about 700 seats are possible, said Frank Mohler, a member of the subcommittee.
A more precise cost estimate cannot be determined until the building is assessed by architects and engineers, which cannot happen until the building is purchased from the town, said Boone Downtown Development Coordinator Pilar Fotta.
We don't own the building, said Fotta. It's to the benefit of the new organization to pay off the building.
Thus far, any donations for the project have been accepted by the DBDA, a nonprofit, and kept in a separate account. The DBDA has made several payments to the town over the past year and now owes approximately $500,000 on the building, Fotta said.
DBDA President Dempsey Wilcox said the organization hopes to continue its relationship with consultant Whitney Jones, and DBDA Board Member Andy Stallings made a motion to approve a resolution of intent to negotiate a contract with the firm, to be voted on at the board meeting Aug. 2.
Fotta said a nominating committee for the new theater organization's board of directors is ready to seat a board now that Jones' survey is complete.
Cooper said he is working to assemble a campaign cabinet of prominent community members to lead the capital campaign.
You won't hear a lot from us. We'll be working behind the scenes, he said.
DBDA member Jill Reeves asked Jones about how much money his firm feels the project can raise, but Jones re-emphasized the need to keep the goal a secret at this point. Capital campaigns are more successful if money has already been raised when they go public, he said.
Doubt immediately sets in if you have nothing, he explained.
Prior to the survey of potential donors, however, Jones announced in March that $6.2 million had been established as a preliminary fundraising goal.
Cooper added, Jill, to reassure you, I feel very confident that we can do what's needed to be done. If we didn't feel we could reach the goal we wouldn't be launching the campaign.
Wilcox and Cooper thanked the town of Boone and its Public Works Department for beginning construction of a temporary faade in front of the theater this week. Wilcox said the faade would improve the look of the building while generating interest about the renovation project.
It's not going to be the grand faade that we envision with the finished product, Cooper noted.