The Holly Theatre, constructed in Medford in 1930, has been purchased by the JPR Foundation, with plans to make it an entertainment venue. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Helping hand for the Holly?

A financial kick-start from Medford officials would help speed up a fundraising campaign for the remodel of the Holly Theatre, Jefferson Public Radio officials told local residents Monday night.

"It will happen a whole lot faster if the city is a participant," said Ron Kramer, executive director of JPR.

Kramer, speaking before about 70 Jackson County residents at Rosso's Trattoria in Medford, said the Holly needs at least $125,000 from the city as part of a facade improvement program.

The money, along with a match from JPR, would pay for $250,000 that would be used to remodel the 1930 Spanish Colonial Revival theater at Holly and Sixth streets, he said.

If the city agrees to provide the money, Kramer said by the spring of 2012 the front of the Holly would look much like it did when the doors first opened. Renovating the inside of the building will require about another$3.5 million, he said.

Kramer and others involved in the Holly remodel made a presentation to the audience about the history of the building, then opened the floor to questions.

City Councilman John Michaels told the audience it will be difficult to tap into the remaining urban renewal dollars, but not impossible if people send in emails to the City Council in support of the Holly before noon Thursday when the Medford Urban Renewal agency meets to discuss how to spend $13.8 million in remaining funds. The meeting will be held at the Medford council chambers, 511 W. Eighth Street.

"It can still happen if you want it to happen," Michaels said. "We know you need this good-faith effort to make this thing happen."

Michaels said that unfortunately a lot of the remaining urban renewal money will get tied up in deferred maintenance on the two downtown Medford parking structures.

Medford resident Tom Woodard criticized both the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater and the amphitheater at the Expo Center, saying their backers failed to involve the community enough in their planning efforts. He pointed out that the Craterian doesn't have a proper loading dock, which turns off many acts.

He said Medford has embarked on many urban renewal projects, but none have accomplished what they originally intended.

"How are we going to prevent this from becoming another Lithia project?" he said.

Kramer said he didn't want to address Woodard's concern's about other projects.

"It's not something I'm willing to comment on," he said.

He said that JPR has a record of community involvement. "It's, by nature, what JPR is all about," he said.

Ashland resident Matt Ross, who thought Medford could support two performing arts theaters, said, "This is kind of a 'duh' question — what about the parking?"

Kramer said that under current code, the Holly would need a 270-car parking area. However, because the building is considered historic and because it wasn't required to have a parking lot when it opened, he's hoping the city waives that requirement.

Kramer said he's hoping to work with local businesses to use their empty parking lots in the evenings.

"It would not be the worst thing that could happen if downtown Medford had a parking problem," he said.

Medford resident Joyce Stockton said she grew up with the Holly, but wondered if the building itself was sound.

The structure has reinforced concrete, and is in generally better shape than the Cascade Theatre in Redding, which JPR also remodeled for close to $6 million, Kramer said.

Ashland resident Gina Ing said the acoustics at the Cascade are outstanding, but wondered if they would be as good at the Holly.

Kramer predicted the Holly would have excellent acoustics. It was designed to hold vaudeville acts and other live entertainment. The Holly had some of the best features of its day, even including a "crying room" where mothers could take their boisterous children so as not to disturb the rest of the audience.

He said the acoustics of the auditorium also would be tuned depending on the performance. "We are a radio station," Kramer said. "We know something about sound."

Medford resident Richard Burgess remembers going to the Holly when he was a child. His father, Chuck Burgess, was the manager.

Unfortunately, many of the old theaters from that era have been demolished in the region, Burgess said.

"This is the last theater still standing in its entirety," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail

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