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Jackson Theatre moves forward with sprinkler system

Stage Door remains closed while work on the complex continues.


Staff Writer

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The Jackson Theater project moved a small step closer to completion during a called Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting on Oct. 26,  as members approved the low bid for the three-building sprinkler system.

As the entire project is three phases, the sprinkler system will be installed in three phases, as well. The overall cost of the system, bid out by East Tennessee Sprinkler, was $76,981. 

Phase One of the project, currently underway, is the renovation of the “Stage Door” building, which will connect to both the Jackson Theater and the Jonesborough Repertory Theater.

Phase Two is the Jackson Theater building and Phase Three the JRT building.

The sprinkler systems for each building will be installed during each phase.

During the called meeting,  Alderman Terry Countermine made a motion to approve the low sprinkler system bid and to authorize the Mayor to sign all the relevant documents. Alderman Adam Dickson seconded the motion and all members approved.

While the sprinkler system bid was approved, the BMA Agenda Presentation stated that, “East Tennessee Sprinkler (now) must develop shop drawings that represent the details of the installation for all three buildings.

“These drawings need to be reviewed and approved by the architect, and then sent to Nashville to be reviewed and approved by the State Fire Marshall’s office.”

Town Administrator Bob Browning said that a fire-protection plan was necessary because, “When you interconnect the buildings, then we have to have a fire-protection plan for all three buildings and all that has to be coordinated. So we had to go in and do a design for all three.”

Following the BMA meeting, Browning expanded on the scope of the entire project.

“The project itself becomes three phases by default. We’re working on the Stage Door now. The Stage Door, once we finish that, can become operable again because it can be used for the JRT while the Jackson Theater is being renovated.

“Those three buildings are all going to be interconnected. The bathrooms, for example, concessions, waiting area and the box office will be in the building that we call the Stage Door building, in between the Jackson Theater and the JRT.

“So where you used to go in, where we’re renovating the Stage Door now, that’s going to be internally connected to the Jackson Theater. So you walk in and get your ticket and the concessions, and you can go into the lobby of the Jackson Theater.”

The Town Administrator added that once work on the Stage Door is complete, the Jackson Theater phase will begin, while the JRT remains open. Once the Jackson Theater renovations are completed and the building is open for business, the JRT will be out of commission during the third phase.

When the entire project is completed, all three buildings will be connected, with two stages allowing any sort of production, as the Stage Door serves both theaters.

While work on phase one is currently underway, Browning said the work crews have run into obstacles that have added time to the project.

“One of the things that’s happened in the Stage Door building is that we ended up, once we took everything out of the walls and off the walls, we found out that we’ve got a bunch of stuff to do.

“We thought it was the best building and it ended up being one of the worst. One of the reasons this project has taken so long is that it’s expanded into a three-building complex.”

Since work crews had been able to access the Jackson Theater before starting on the design, there have been no surprises and added work to the job. That was not the case with the Stage Door building, as it was open for business and therefore inaccessible before plans were made.

Browning mentioned some of the renovations that are planned for the three building complex;

• Restrooms on the first and second floor to accommodate guests in either the main seating area or the balcony seats of the Jackson Theater or the JRT.

• At the JRT, a raised roof as well as increased structural support on the second floor to accommodate a green room or even an area for a live band when performances demand it.

• The Jackson Theater building will be extended 30 feet in the back of the structure, which will increase the stage to a depth of 40 feet, which Browning said was “an important component if you’re going to be doing a big production.

• Underneath the Jackson Theater stage will be a mechanical room, dressing rooms and a green room, which will connect to the stages of both theaters.

• The JRT entrance is going to extend about 12 feet out towards Main Street. According to Browning, “When you went through the Stage Door building, you got your ticket and went out the side door, then went down the alleyway. (Now) you’re going to be able to go all the way through and into the vestibule without going outside.”

While there have been some delays in the project, Browning feels that the worst is behind them, and that the project has great potential.

“On the Stage Door (phase), we feel like we’ve passed the hurdles there … When it’s done, there’s not going to be anything like it. Barter (Theater) has two stages but they’re across the street from each other. It’s going to be awesome.”