Jayhawk Theatre To Breathe New Life; Funding Almost There

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Plans are on track for an almost 90-year-old piece of Topeka history to come back to life by 2015.

The Jayhawk Theatre went dark in 1976, but Thursday, supporters announced funding efforts for the multi-million dollar restoration project.

It'll take $8.5 million for the Jayhawk Theatre's old doors to repoen to audiences.

The theater's board of directors announced it is contracting with tax credit financing firm Brian Wishneff & Associates to access the state and federal historic tax credits and grants that will cover 60 percent.

There are three programs the theater falls under: the federal and state historic tax credits and New Market tax credits. The federal and state tax credits are not competitive. Vice President of Preservation and Environment with the firm Adam Markwood said that as long as the theater is renovated correctly and important historic elements are preserved, it'll get the benefits of those programs. Each program covers 35% percent or more if there is local investment support.

The New Market Tax Credit program is competitive, however. It was created to create economic growth in struggling areas. It can cover another 15%.

Local investors are stakeholders around the community like banks or anyone with significant tax liability and Markwood said they'll approach them about investing in tax credits that are generated by the theater.

"Usually local investors are willing to pay more because they have more than just financial interest in the project."

The rest of the funding will come from private donations. President of the theater's board of directors Doug Jones said they are hitting the fundraising hard and are confident they'll have all the dollars by the start of 2014.

In its golden year, the theater hosted up to 1,500 people at a time. After the renovation, it'll look just as good as it did when it opened in 1926.

"It will knock people's socks off when they walk in here," Jones said. "It does that right now even in its rough state. People can see the possibilities."

The venue will be open to concerts, films, business meetings, wedding receptions and more entertainment. The board's aim is to now get people excited about it.

"We're still fighting the baggage that a lot of people don't know it's here. It's the last one and we need to get it back in action."

Jones says it is a new cultural aspect of Topeka that the city needs, and coincides perfectly with the revitalization of downtown.

The board hopes the brand-new Jayhawk Theatre will bring in more business to the area, and attract young professionals.