GOSHEN — Christmas came early for the Goshen Theater this month with the announcement Tuesday of a $1 million anonymous gift aimed at expanding the ongoing renovation efforts currently underway at the historic downtown theater.
Goshen Theater Board member David Daugherty announced the $1 million gift during Tuesday’s meeting of the Goshen Redevelopment Commission.
“Thanks to a family who values our community and the arts, the theater has received an unexpected gift of $1 million to expand the renovation and construction efforts that began in May,” Daugherty said of Phase 1 of the project, which officially kicked off May 6. “The anonymous donor, who has pledged $500,000 to be matched by the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, stepped forward because of a deep determination to have the seating and decor in the auditorium replaced and renovated now rather than later.”
In the works for several years, Phase 1 of the theater renovation project involves about $4.2 million in work aimed at renovating and modernization the historic downtown theater, as well as an additional $1 million endowment for the theater’s continued operation.
A sample of planned improvements connected to Phase 1 of the renovation project include: accessibility improvements; a new four-stop elevator; new public restrooms; a partial fire suppression system; theatrical lighting improvements; auditorium improvements; performer dressing room remodeling; and a lobby expansion.
Given the extent of those planned improvements and the project’s limited budget, Daugherty noted improvements to the seating and decor of the theater’s auditorium had not originally been included in the Phase 1 plan.
“Because of the donor’s addition to their pledge for the theater’s construction project, the board of directors is now moving forward with efforts to accelerate funding for additional upgrades not originally included in the scope of work in the current Phase 1,” Daugherty said. “So we’re calling this Phase 1.5.”
According to Goshen Theater Board President Everett Thomas, while Phase 1 was originally set to be completed by February 2020, the board is now working with Kil Architecture Planning to research Americans with Disabilities Act compliance requirements, and create design and construction documents for the planned auditorium improvements.
A sampling of the additional improvements that will now be possible due to the anonymous $1 million gift include new and larger seats for both the auditorium’s main floor and the balcony, repair to the plaster ceiling, as well as new paint and new carpet.
Thomas noted the new construction documents necessary to accommodate the updated Phase 1 plan should be finished by mid-December, after which project contractor DJ Construction will be able to get hard quotes for the actual construction work, thus likely pushing the final completion date into May 2020.
“There is no doubt we have wonderful people who care about our community. When our angel donor family learned about the scope of work for Phase 1, they decided they wanted to inspire new life into the interior of the theater as well,” Thomas said of the unexpected gift. “We are thankful to them and our contractors, who will be working hard in the coming months to meet our new set of requests. We are also grateful for the continued support of the Community Foundation. This is proof we are stronger together.”
Goshen Mayor and Theater Board member Jeremy Stutsman offered a similar sentiment.
“Having generous members in our city is important so we can continue building a better, stronger community,” Stutsman said. “My family and I cannot come close to writing a check that reaches that level. However, we will donate what we can to honor the angel donor’s love of Goshen. Any amount, be it $50, $500 or $5,000, will help this project move along.”
In concluding his presentation Tuesday, Daugherty went on to thank the Redevelopment Commission itself, which as one of the project’s earliest supporters has pledged $850,000 to the overall cost of the project.
“It started right here in these chambers with this group, and with the support of City Council, to really get this project moving forward,” Daugherty said. “So I think from the board’s perspective, and hopefully from the community’s perspective, we’d like to thank you for all your support for this project, and we really feel that when those doors do open in late May or early June of 2020, it’s something we will all be very proud of.”