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Real Estate Report: restoring the historic Colonial Theater in Augusta

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AUGUSTA (WGME) -- A major renovation effort is underway on a historic theater in Maine's capital city.


On the fringe of downtown Augusta, the Colonial Theater sits, silent. In its heyday it was the site to see silent pictures with live music and eventually watch feature films with sound.

Originally built in 1913, a major fire damaged the interior in 1926. It was rebuilt shortly after and served as an entertainment hub for decades.

"My mother would come here almost every weekend," says Crystal Sullivan, a Colonial Theater board member, "And she said that the lines sometimes for the feature films would snake all the way down Water Street and then actually across the bridge for some of the movies."

The theater closed in 1969 and hasn't been used for that purpose since.

"Right now we are the only capital city in the country without a functioning performing arts venue," says Michael Hall, Executive Director of Augusta Downtown Alliance.

There's a push for that to change -- restoring the theater to its former glory.

"The stage is going to be a little bit larger so that we can do more plays, more live theater here" says board member Phyllis Herrick Von Herrlich, "But it will essentially look the same."

The $8.5 million project includes the renovations to the theater and to construct an adjoining building for aspects like parking, an elevator and another stage.

"We really feel like we're at the point now where we've got a sustainable business model, we've got architectural drawings" says board Chair Tobias Parkhurst, "And we know this is going to be a phenomenal thing for this community. So all that's left is the money."

The hope is that the restoration will boost Augusta's revitalization.

"For every dollar spent in a performing arts venue, it's $3 back to the community in general," says Hall, "So that's a huge revenue source."

The theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Funding for the project is coming mainly from private donations, tax credits and grants.

"This project is really going to bookend this end of the street with really something that, something worth talking about," says Parkhurst.

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