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Despite delays, Jackson Theatre inches closer to opening doors

Jessica Fuller • Mar 26, 2018 at 10:00 AM

If everything goes according to plan, the years-long project to renovate the Jackson Theatre will be complete and doors will open by the end of this year. 

Town Administrator Bob Browning said work has been flowing smoothly to transform the 100-year-old building and its two neighbors – known as The Stage Door and the current home of the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre – into a two-stage, multi-purpose theater that will host plays and music events, screen movies and just about anything else you can use a 300-seat theater for. 

“There’s not any other facility like this around,” Browning said.

Several state grants and state funding have made the $1.6-million project that ignited when the town purchased the building in 2014. A $100,000 facade grant awarded earlier this year will help with improvements and renovations to awnings, signage, paint and anything else that helps with the restoration of the front of the building.

Earlier this week, state Rep. Matthew Hill announced that the project will be receiving $500,000 in state funds that can be allocated to any part of the project.The monies are part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2018-19 budget. 

When completed, the theater will have two stages – the stage in the main building plus the current stage used by the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre – a concession stand, balcony seating and several dressing rooms for actors. 

Currently, work on the main building is on standby as work crews await shipments of steel in order to strengthen the building’s facade before proceeding with other renovations. All things considered, Browning said the project is on track for completion, though parts of the project could still be held up by bad weather. 

“It may be four months before we get the steel,” Browning said. “We can’t really put people in that building, it’s not that it’s unsafe, but going in there and messing with walls and doing the kinds of things we need to do on the front end, we really need steel structure in place.” 

Throughout its lifetime, the three-story building has served time as a hardware store, entertainment center and office space. The project began as an idea to just restore the Jackson Theatre building, but Browning said after adding needed updates like ADA-compliant bathrooms and fire escapes that renovating just one building wasn’t going to be enough.

“We realized there just wasn’t going to be enough room without cutting down substantially on the number of seats in the theater, which defeated the whole purpose of trying to have a larger venue facility,” he said.

Through private contributions from former mayor Kelly Wolfe and Sonia King, the town was able to purchase the theater’s next-door neighbor, The Stage Door, and work is continuing on that building to transform it into one with a concession area, box office and restroom area while work is stalled on the main building. 

With the current Jonesborough Repertory Theatre thrown into the mix, the project bloomed from renovating one building to three buildings, and getting all the paperwork pushed through for that hit the pause button on the project for a few months, Browning said, but things should be back on track soon. 

 

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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