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Town optimistic about $725,000 in grants for Jackson Theatre project

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced last week the recommendation of 19 Appalachian Regional Commission grants, including one for $450,000 to help the Town of Jonesborough renovate the old Jackson Theatre on Main Street.
Earlier this year, Haslam requested $500,000 be put in the state’s supplemental budget for the project. However, that money was unceremoniously axed from the budget prior to its final approval, leaving Tennessee’s oldest town with no state funding whatsoever to implement the plan.
Following the loss of budgeted funds, Haslam allowed the town to apply for an ARC grant for the project.
While local and state leaders feel confident the project will be funded through an ARC grant, Haslam’s official announcement of support for it on July 30 certainly pleased Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe.
“We are extremely thankful to the governor for finding our project to be worthy,” Wolfe said. “The unexpected headwinds that we ran into in the (State House of Representatives where the funding was pulled from the supplemental budget) have been overcome. As long as we fall in (ARC) guidelines, we don’t anticipate any problems getting the funding.”
Wolfe has contended the renovation of the Jackson Theatre, a historic landmark built in the 1920s, will be a big boon for tourism in Jonesborough.
The building is currently owned by Wesley Wilson and will need to be purchased by the town before any renovation work could begin.
“I talked to Mr. Wilson last week,” Wolfe said. “He remains an eager participant in this process. I think he sees the value this theater could represent to this town.”
An appraisal of the building placed its value somewhere around $480,000, Wolfe said.
While the $450,000 ARC grant is specifically for the renovation of the theater, the town has a separate request in for an ARC grant for $275,000 to help buy the building.
That grant request was originally filed by the International Storytelling Center to build a pavilion on its grounds. After the ISC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the town asked that the grant instead be considered for buying the old theater.
“We expect approval for both ARC grants,” Wolfe noted.
Wolfe said he hopes to see the town in possession of the building by the end of the year.
From there, plans would be put into place for transitioning to the renovation of the theater.
“We have a preliminary plan developed for it,” Wolfe said. “It’s really a two-part project. We’re going to have to do some demolition because it is being used as something other than a theater right now. Then we’d begin putting it back together.”