Holly Theatre project backers spread the word

Awebsite launched this week will promote the proposed $3.5 million restoration of the Holly Theatre in downtown Medford and seek information from local residents who have memories or old photos of the 1930 building.

"The worst fear you have when you restore a building is that on opening night, you find out something about the building that you would have liked to have known two years earlier," said Ron Kramer, executive director of Jefferson Public Radio.

The JPR Foundation is seeking donations from the public for the restoration project, expected to cost about $3.5 million.

First, however, the foundation must raise $499,000 by March 15 to complete the purchase of the theater at the corner of Holly and Sixth streets.

Kramer said there are lots of old photos of the theater, but none in color. He would like to get color photos to help duplicate the neon marquee and signs on the front of the building.

"We are trying to identify the color of the neon tubes," he said.

Color photos will also help with the interior restoration, though many of the original fixtures have survived.

Once the building is purchased, Kramer said, a priority will be to install a neon sign on one corner of the building as a visible signal that the restoration project is under way.

On the Web site, the restoration of the Holly received two endorsements, one from Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler and the other from Redding City Manager Kurt Starman.

JPR restored the Cascade Theater in Redding, opening six years ago, and Kramer said the theater has operated in the black ever since.

"Numerous new restaurants have opened in our downtown since the Cascade Theatre re-opened in 2004 and economic activity in our downtown district continues to expand," Starman said.

Wheeler wrote: "The City is enthusiastic about your project and is prepared to assist where it can in the process to rejuvenate and rehabilitate the Theater. We are very supportive of your project and its potential impact on the community."

The Holly proposal hasn't met with open arms by supporters of the Craterian Theater, an existing performing arts center on Central Avenue in downtown Medford, about six blocks from the Holly. Craterian officials say they worry the Holly would siphon off entertainment dollars and don't think Medford can support two performing arts centers.

Kramer said only two or three of the 90 performances at the Craterian are the same as at the Cascade, which would have similar programming as the Holly.

JPR wants to restore the building because it would help attract varied acts as well as an audience that would appreciate seeing a building that was once an icon in downtown Medford.

"These buildings occupy a very special place in the lives of a community," Kramer said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

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