Even though it's been more than a decade since the Wayne Theatre Alliance first began work to revitalize the historic Wayne Theatre in downtown Waynesboro, the curtain has yet to rise. But now an infusion of money has the project moving once again, and volunteers say the end is in sight.
Clair Myers, the director of the nonprofit alliance, admits even supporters have sometimes been dubious about the future of the downtown landmark. But the alliance is about to close on a final construction loan, and quickly raised the money the bank required as collateral.
The inside is far from finished, but the historic Wayne Theatre in downtown Waynesboro is just a few months - and $6 million - from entering its final phase. The theater alliance has a green light for its last construction loan, but money that should be quickly paid back through historic tax credits.
"The goal is to open this debt-free, so that we're good forever," Myers said.
The Wayne Theatre should open its doors in the spring of 2014, and supporters believe it will have an immediate effect on downtown. The alliance already runs a smaller venue, the Gateway Theatre, which has hosted live music, comedy shows and independent films.
"It used to be one restaurant downtown, and the streets were pretty empty at night," said Myers. "Once we started the gateway, there's lots of traffic, we now have three restaurants downtown with a fourth one getting ready to open."
The Wayne Theatre will have about 400 seats and an orchestra pit for larger events like concerts and stage plays, as well as a drop-down screen for film festivals. With the project nearing its final stretch, the alliance collected $1.2 million in donations over the past six months.
"Raising private money to make all the construction events happen...is a big statement to what the community feels about it," said Waynesboro Economic Development Director Greg Hitchin. "So we're looking forward to having it be there, and be a big impact on our revitalization."
The alliance plans to begin the final phase of restoration in March.
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