Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 12, 2013

City council tours Granada building


MT. VERNON — — After expressing a desire to find out more about the Granada Center for the Performing Arts renovation project, members of the city council received a tour of the facility on Friday.

Granada Board Member David Lister conducted the tour, which included the basement, facility and the roof. The council approved a grant of $90,448 for the Granada from the Downtown Tax Increment Finance program, which will be paid over four years. Under guidelines of the TIF award, $15,871 will be paid to the Granada with fiscal year 2012-13 TIF monies; then $24,859 for the second through fourth year. The funds will be used to replace the roof on the auditorium portion of the building, which has a projected total project cost of $90,448.

Lister first showed the group the south side room attached to the theater, which at one time held a book store. Under plans of the board, a doorway will be created from the theater lobby into the new space, which will be renovated to become Marvel Lounge, named after the first Granada Theater manager, Homer Marvel.

“The next phase is the lounge,” Lister explained. “Where we make our money is in alcohol sales at events. ... We then put the money into work needed on the theater. That’s also how we’re paying the bills now.”

Lister stressed the group does not plan on opening a bar, but would have the lounge area available to serve those who purchase alcohol during events and to provide another area for small venue performances. The lounge area would also be available as a staging area for catered events.

Lister said the board has no debt on the project at this time, with many businesses and residents who have come forward with donations of time, services and funds.

“Mt. Vernon Rotary was one of our first donors,” Lister said, adding the women’s restroom renovation was able to get underway with the first donation as well as donations from Rend Lake Plumbing. Work on air conditioning has received donations from Shores Builders, and Clinton Electric and Lowe’s are working with the group to wire the new lounge, rewire the lobby and replace exit signs throughout the facility. The group recently received a Lowe’s Hometown Heroes grant, and Lipps Construction has agreed to put in the doorway from the foyer to the new lounge.

Lister said after the lounge is completed, the goal is to tier the auditorium floor and increase seating to at least 500.

“We received the seats we have from Rend Lake College when they renovated their theater,” Lister said. “But we need more seating. We need to add more chairs if we want to do shows here and have acts. We will need at least 500 seats.”

In addition, Lister said when the tiering work is being done, plans call for fiber optic and additional electrical lines to be laid inside the tiers to allow for convention opportunities.

Lister said in the last 11 years, the Granada project has “inched along” in spite of further needs for monetary donations.

“We’ve estimated it will take ($750,000) to finish the project,” Lister said. “The donations just aren’t there right now. ... There are many in the county who still don’t think this is a viable project, but we’ve proved them wrong.”

Lister said the theater is a place worthy of preserving, as it has a place in the hearts and memories of many people throughout the community.

“Last summer there was a woman who was here for her 50th class reunion,” Lister said. “She’s moved away, but came back for the reunion. She came up to me with tears in her eyes and said she was so glad to see the work that has been done and that this building means so much. Then she told me, ‘I had my first kiss in here.”