Holly Days Planning

Holly Days Planning

The fundraising campaign for the Holly Theatre is about to shift into high gear after a $20,000 cleanup effort that will allow public tours inside the 1930 building on Sept. 7.

Fundraising efforts for the Holly Theatre to date have netted $922,000, far short of the more than $2 million supporters are aiming for. But Randy Bobst-McKay, executive director of Jefferson Live!, said he's not worried.

"I'm not daunted by that number," he said. "It's a healthy number, not a scary number."

Steve Nelson, JPR Foundation board president, echoed that sentiment, saying that raising $2 million in this valley is "doable."

Work crews have started ripping out lead-based paint in the interior and will be undertaking a list of fixes needed to make the building safe for tours, which should help bring in donations.

"We want to get the theater cleaned up and safe, so we can tell the story of what it will become," said Bobst-McKay.

Holly supporters have been awaiting word on state and federal tax-credit programs, which provide incentives for investors and corporations to invest in projects related to historic preservation or improving blighted areas.

The investors would receive tax write-offs, and Jefferson Live! wouldn't have to repay the money.

Bobst-McKay said Jefferson Live! didn't want to actively seek local donations until it had a fairly firm idea of how much it needed to raise. He said he will continue to look for grants to augment local fundraising efforts.

Last year, the facade on the Holly was restored, and the theater appeared to be on track for a major renovation after being closed in 1986.

However, a dispute between Southern Oregon University and the JPR Foundation put restoration efforts on hold.

In the meantime, a separate organization known as Jefferson Live! was formed to spearhead the Holly restoration and to run the Cascade Theatre in Redding.

Chris Reising, director of Medford Public Works, said before the tours can begin the city will require guardrails, better lighting and a way to alert people about steps and steep inclines.

"The main thing is to eliminate trip hazards and places where people can fall," he said. "We don't want people falling into the orchestra pit."

Each pre-restoration tour will last about 20 minutes, taking visitors into the lobbies, auditorium and backstage area. Visitors will also be able to climb the stairs to see the upstairs lobby. During the restoration, the theater will have an elevator installed.

Workers have found "drops," painted curtains used for background scenery, that will be unfurled during the tours. In addition, posters showing what different parts of the theater will look like when finished will be displayed.

"This is a very dramatic entertainment venue," said Nelson, who wants to convey as much of that drama as possible during the docent-led tours, which will be used as a tool for fundraising efforts. He said it's crucial for the project to reignite interest from the local community.

He said a decision was made to tear out walls on the second floor to reveal the grandeur of the upstairs lobby.

"I want people to get the idea of what this will look like when it's not a rabbit warren of offices," he said.

With $922,000 in hand and some work already completed on the exterior and interior, more than one-third of the dollars needed for the project have already been raised.

"We are now getting so close," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or

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