CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (July 9, 2009) - More than a year after floodwaters did massive damage to Theatre Cedar Rapids' home in the Iowa Theater Building, the Vision Iowa Board voted Wednesday to award $1.5 million toward renovation and expansion of the downtown facility.

Funds will preserve and upgrade the historic Iowa Theater building in downtown C.R., with the reopening expected to be in February 2010.

In addition to repairing flood damage, the project will give the theater a massive facelift, creating more space for its patrons, adding modern facilities and helping to inspire reinvestment in downtown Cedar Rapids.

"I think this is a linchpin for Cedar Rapids' recovery," Vision Iowa Board Chairwoman Regenia Bailey told the media Wednesday. "Theatre Cedar Rapids comes back downtown (and) the restaurants will be motivated to come back."

Pat Deignan, President of the Theatre Cedar Rapids Board of Directors, agreed.

"The Vision Iowa Board believes, as we do, that bringing TCR back as soon as possible after the flood will help bring people back downtown, and will be a catalyst for further redevelopment of downtown Cedar Rapids," said Deignan, of Bankers Trust.

The $7.8 million project by Theatre Cedar Rapids received a major boost from the announcement of Vision Iowa's support. The new funding will combine with over $3 million pledged to the Next Act Capital Campaign and several FEMA grant applications that total more than $3 million.

Together, these funds will complete the renovation and re-opening of the Iowa Theatre Building, Deignan said.

"When we embarked on this redevelopment plan in earnest last fall, we set an aggressive goal of being back in the theatre by the end of February 2010 with the musical The Producers," said Deignan. "That remains our goal, although the timeframe is getting very tight. We are currently working diligently with FEMA on completing their review process so we can commence full-scale construction in order to get TCR back into its home, and start bringing patrons back to downtown Cedar Rapids."

Located at 102 Third St. SE in the heart of downtown, originally the Iowa Theater Building had served as a movie theatre. Last renovated in 1983, it is currently home to Theatre Cedar Rapids, the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre and the Cedar Rapids Harmony Hawks, as well as touring companies and corporate events. The 500-seat auditorium provides a key piece of the city's venue portfolio.

However, the building's age had already created difficulties before the flood. Many of the building's plumbing and heating systems were still original, and were in poor condition even before they were decimated by the floodwaters. The theatre also struggled with small lobby and restroom space.

Among the elements of the new Iowa Theater Building design:

  • More than 30 additional seats for audiences.
    • A wider, more modern lobby that accommodates more patrons, shows photos and updates on TV monitors and restores original architecture from the building's construction in 1928.
    • A digital marquee on the building's exterior that evokes the design of the original Iowa Theater marquee from 1928.
  • A lounge that extends out to the windows along 1st Avenue.
  • Larger and more accessible restrooms.
    • Renovated dressing rooms, additional classroom space and better facilities for volunteers.
    • Relocating new electrical and HVAC systems to higher levels as a protective measure against flooding.

The value of arts in the community was recently illustrated by the Americans for the Arts study, which found that more than $63 million is generated by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations like TCR each year in the Corridor. With more than $31 million in spending by local organizations, local nonprofit arts organizations support 1,986 full-time jobs; generate almost $34 million in household income to local residents; and deliver more than $6 million in local and state government revenue

TCR brings more than 30,000 people downtown each year, playing a vital role in the rebirth of downtown Cedar Rapids. Improvements to the Iowa Theater Building could create a drastic increase in that number, said Casey Prince, TCR Managing Director.

"I can tell you there is more enthusiasm and excitement about the future of live theatre among the board, our volunteers, actors and patrons than we have sensed for several years," Prince said. "This initiative will create perpetual support for our storied organization, improve an historic and unique downtown community structure, more efficiently use existing space for educational programming and ensure that this venue remains a source of local pride as well as a home for Theatre Cedar Rapids."