On Monday, Governor McAuliffe announced that the Lynchburg Economic Development Authority was awarded a grant for $186,000 from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) to support restoration of the Academy of Music Theatre at the Academy Center of the Arts.
Speaking about the announcement at an event in Warrenton, Governor McAuliffe said, “Small business growth is critical as we work to diversify and build a new Virginia economy, and viable small business strategies will help bring new investment and job creation to the Commonwealth. The redevelopment of properties like this is key to the revitalization of historic downtown areas and helping the region to attract businesses and visitors.”
With this grant, the Academy has now raised more than $14.6 million in gifts and pledges since the Capital Campaign began in 2012 with less than $2 million left to reach the Campaign goal of $16.6 million. Much of that progress has been achieved during the last 12 months with $6 million in commitments from individuals, businesses and foundations, $2.3 million from the City of Lynchburg and $600,000 from the Lynchburg Economic Development Authority. Thanks to the generosity of a private donor, all gifts and pledges made until March 16th will be matched up to a total of $700,000. Since it was announced 4 weeks ago, $380,000 has been raised toward this Challenge.
The Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) is a state program to leverage local and private resources to achieve market-driven redevelopment of dilapidated structures, creating a catalyst for long-term employment opportunities and on-going physical and economic revitalization. Eligible properties include those formerly used for manufacturing or warehousing as well as large-scale white elephant structures, such as department stores, theaters, hotels and shopping centers. Since the inception of the program in 2012, IRF has invested more than $7.7 million in these structures throughout the Commonwealth.
The IRF grant is in response to a $600,000 application filed last September by the Lynchburg Economic Development Authority to support the Academy’s efforts to restore and reopen the historic Theatre. The 2016 IRF projects were reviewed and evaluated competitively, with an emphasis on those with a high level of blight, identification of impediments to economic development efforts, alignment with regional or local strategies, availability of matching resources, the level of community distress where the property is located and an identified and feasible end use.
George Dawson, Campaign Chair, expressed appreciation for the support from the state grant. He stated “Given the significant economic impact the Theatre will have on downtown Lynchburg and the entire region, we hoped that the full $600,000 would be awarded but we knew all along that the process was very competitive. We were glad we were one of only four applicants that received funding. Right now I’m calling on everyone to make a donation to our Matching Challenge while gifts are doubled. Together we can finish this.”
Construction is currently underway and the Theatre is slated to reopen in 2018. Fundraising success is critical to keeping the project moving. Plans call for $16.6 million from the Capital Campaign and an additional $12.4 million from tax credit funds with a total project budget of $29 million.
The Academy Center of the Arts, anchored by the historic Academy of Music Theatre, is greater Lynchburg’s multi-facility center for arts, culture and community building and occupies 1.25 blocks on Main Street in downtown Lynchburg. The Academy is 501 (c)(3) directed by a 27-member Board of Trustees comprised of community volunteers. The Academy Center of the Arts, previously known as the Academy of Fine Arts, was formed in 2003 from the merger of the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center and the Academy of Music Theatre, Inc. Built in 1905 and closed in 1958, the Theatre is one of the few surviving Beaux-Arts style theatres in Virginia.