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Progress continues at historic Elba Theatre

The historic Elba Theatre received a breath of new life on Friday, June 19, as Restoration154 board members accepted a $25,000 grant to continue remodeling the once neglected downtown building.

According to board member Justin Maddox, Restoration154 is a nonprofit organization that supports community projects around Elba. He said the organization bought the theatre back in 2011 and has been working to renovate it since.

Restoration 154 began working with the Fox Theatre Institute in 2018, when the FTI hosted a workshop in Elba.

"We decided to lead a workshop here about a year ago," said Leigh Burns, director of FTI. "Then, this past year they applied for a grant, and we did fund it."

During the presentation ceremony, Burns said that this is the first time that her organization has awarded a grant to a theatre outside of Georgia, where the Fox Theatre is located.

"For us, one of the big factors was that they had public and private partnerships," Burns said. "Not only did they have private money, but they had public money. There's also a great deal of community enthusiasm from the mayor and the council and from Main Street."

Maddox said Restoration 154's pitch for the grant centered around the theatre's cultural and historical value.      

"We told them about the historic significance of the theater, which is something we want to embrace," he said. Maddox talked about the hard times that the theatre and Elba have already endured. Specifically, he said that the three floods in the last 30 years have each damaged the town and its historic theatre.

"This theatre saw all that, and it has been used for storage for years," Maddox said. "Bringing it back as a community facility or cultural arts facility and giving people a place to come and spent time together right here in downtown is an exciting thought."

According to Maddox, this $25,000 will be spent on structure reinforcement and basic utilities like electricity and air conditioning. In Restoration154's plan, this is phase one.

"Phase one will show us a functioning, usable building," Maddox said. "We'll be able to show some movies. We'll have the ability to do concerts and host events in the space."

Later phases include upgrades and restoring the theatre to a place that Elba can be proud to show off.

"The other phases are going to get this really more to what we want to see," Maddox said. "We'll have the marquee in phase two. We'll do some work under the stage for a green room in phase two. Phase three will be a lot of audio equipment and bringing in the screen and doing some theatrical lighting—a lot of finishing touches."

Even those finishing touches will be expensive, according to planning documents provided by Restoration154 board member Philip Box.

"This is pricey stuff, and it's going to be a lot of work to get funding to do all of this," Maddox said. "We do think now that we've got so many partnerships with so many great organizations across Alabama, and one in particular in Georgia, that we will be able to find funding."