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Theater gets $500,000 from state allocation

Gov. Bill Haslam’s $500,000 allocation to the Town of Jonesborough will help restore a historic landmark in Tennessee’s oldest town while igniting a longtime dream of many town leaders.
“This is a big day for Jonesborough,” said Mayor Kelly Wolfe on April 2, shortly after Haslam submitted his state budget for fiscal 2013-2014. Included in the budget is $500,000 for the purchase and renovation of the old Jackson Theatre located on Main Street.
“I certainly appreciate the leaders on the state level supporting our great plans for the Jackson Theatre,” Wolfe continued. “In particular, I would like to thank Sen. Rusty Crowe, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and Gov. Haslam for their efforts on our behalf.”
The town asked for $1 million from the state to restore the old theater into a hub for the arts and, in the process, a tourist attraction. Despite coming away with just half that amount, Wolfe said he and fellow town leaders are pleased.
“Not only are we happy to receive $500,000, we are ecstatic,” Wolfe said. “You can’t say thank you enough. This definitely allows us to begin the process and gets us a long way down the road toward realizing this dream.”
The town is now getting an appraisal completed on the old theater, which was originally built in the 1920s. It is currently owned by Jonesborough resident Wesley Wilson, who, in the past, has discussed selling the structure to the town for somewhere around $500,000. Haslam’s allocation would likely go toward the purchase price of the building, Wolfe said.
“The logical first step in this process will be for us to purchase the building and preclude any other uses other than that of the theater,” he said. “Then we will continue to formulate funding options by which we can pursue the rest of the project.”
Leaders estimate the restoration project will cost somewhere around $1.6 million, which does not include the cost of buying the building.
“We currently have several different scenarios under way that could result in the funding we need,” Wolfe said. “One of them pertains to an (Appalachian Regional Commission) grant opportunity and another one is a potential debt restructuring that would allow us to free up additional cash flow.”