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Landmark secures more funds
By Donna Marbury Contributing Writer Columbus Post Last Tuesday, Columbus City Council approved emergency funds to complete the renovation of the Lincoln Theater on the city’s near east side. The project, originally budgeted to cost $11 million gained an additional $2.3 million from the city’s capital funds in order to add a balcony, update the main entrance and add more wiring to allow for live recordings. “The Lincoln Center has already seen extreme renovations, and now there is the need for additional changes for the overall quality of the finished product,” said Councilman Andrew Ginther, chair of the city’s development committee. In 2006, Franklin County matched the city’s $4 million investment in the project, while CAPA raised the remaining funds. According to CAPA, the Lincoln Theater is 80 percent completed and the additional funds will make the theater more attractive to the community. Developers plan on completing the theater by adding restrooms in the main entrance, a detail left out of the original design of the theater. Other upgrades include third floor space for the Jazz Arts Groups’ Jazz Academy. The theater is already 70 percent booked, and slated to open in Spring 2009. Boyce Safford, director of development for the city of Columbus, said that the main addition, a balcony that will add

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100 additional seats, will distinguish the theater from the King Arts Complex, located in the same neighborhood, on Mt. Vernon Blvd. “We had to make sure the theater had a balcony to show the difference between it and the King Arts Center (Complex),” he said. “The theater will work in tandem with the King Arts Center (Complex) and will compliment its programming. In our neighborhoods, people want to ask ‘why are there two,’ but that isn’t a problem in the broader communities. We see it as an addition to the arts community, not a hindrance.” Lincoln Theater’s Artistic Director Maurice Hines said he has performed at venues across the world, and that the addition of a balcony will allow the theater to attract larger shows and productions. “The theater will be ready for the world with the inclusion of a balcony,” Hines said. “It’s for the world, but it is also for the people of the community. The Lincoln Theater is going to be a beacon for the neighborhood and the people deserve the best.” Councilwoman Charleta Tavares approved the funds, with concerns that the renovation project must try harder to attract workers from the King-Lincoln district and programming attractive to the Black community. “The unemployment rate in the King-Lincoln district has been in the double digits forever,” said Tavares. “It doesn’t do the people in the neighborhood any good not to be a part of the renovation process and the opportunities of the Lincoln Theater.” Safford said that the city ran workshops and presentations in order to attract minority and women-owned businesses to be a part of the project, working with the Central Ohio Minority (Business) Associa-tion. “We knew we couldn’t redevelop the near east side without the people present. We can’t do a highly visible project like this without a percentage of the jobs being available for the residents of the community. The city, along with CAPA has heard these concerns loud and clear and we plan on representing the community,” he said. Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson said that she is hoping to see an increase in tourism from the theater and more money circulating in the King-Lincoln district. “The theater is really a benefit to the community in numerous ways. This facility is an economic engine and will add to the ‘bed tax,’ hopefully bringing a lot of people to the city,” she said. Mayor Michael Coleman started plans to renovate the theater in 2002 and has since coined it the “crown jewel” of the King-Lincoln district revitalization efforts. The theater, which once boasted performances by Sammy Davis, Jr., Nancy Wilson, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, closed in the 1970s, due to the decline of the once booming African-American neighborhood. Since the renovation of the Lincoln Theater started, other businesses have sprouted up along Long Street. Built in 2005, the Gateway Building, a 42,500-square-foot building for office and retail space across the street from the Lincoln Theater, houses Elite Dry Cleaning and Zanzibar Brews, a coffee shop. The Book Suite, the area’s only retail bookstore, and the Urban Spirit Coffee Shop and Loft opened down the street
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from the theater and pays homage to the area’s jazz roots.
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