The desire to raise funds for the purchase of the Englewood Theatre was met with a passionate response when Tammy Parsons, CEO of the West Ind. Connection, informed community members of their goals and challenges during a monthly update meeting hosted by Mayor Eileen Weir.
Parsons, along with Monte Short, who is involved in the transition process, confirmed they are in the process of securing funds to make a down payment on the building, but have a tight deadline.
Funds for the purchase of the theater need to be secured by the end of June, according to Parsons and Short. Including the initial down payment, the total purchase price of the theater will be $750,000, with monthly installments of $5,000 paid to its current owner, Wade Williams.
When the challenge of raising the funds in a short amount of time was discussed, the response from those gathered in the room was supportive.
Laurie Wiley immediately volunteered her time, asking what was needed to make the project happen.
“I believe in this project,” she said. “I think if we can get through this hurdle of $250,000, then the rest I think could be cake because it would be a believable project at that point.”
According to Short and Parsons, they want the theater to be owned by the community. Tom Lesnak, president of the Independence Chamber of Commerce, said the intent is for an additional non-profit organization to be formed to take ownership, but one does not exist at this time. Lesnak also confirmed he is working with the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, which would handle any donations toward the acquisition so contributing community members can receive a tax break.
The resurrection of the Englewood Theatre, according to Parsons, is part of the West Ind. Connection’s goal of revitalizing the Englewood district, which features a large amount of homes that are well over 100 years old.
These homes, according to a walking survey conducted by the organization, make up the best and worst of the district. Some homes are restored, keeping history vibrant, while others have been left to disrepair.
“We lost 200 homes in the last 40 years and there has been one rebuilt,” said Parsons. Additionally, most of the rental properties in the district are in older homes.
Under the philosophy that art makes communities beautiful, a restored Englewood is the first goal in restoring the neighborhood.
“I believe the Englewood Theatre for Englewood is what the Historic Square is for the Square,” Parsons said.
While the purchase price is set, the cost of repairs is still to be determined. However, Parsons and Short don’t want that to stop any of their progress, as the theater and its contents would serve as a draw for other attractions, benefitting the entire city. Parsons expressed her desire to see features such as a monthly film festival and even local TED (Technology/Entertainment/Design) Talks.
“I think if we open these doors and put in a wow factor … we will have TED Talks here,” she said. “We constantly dream about what else is possible.”
The first step however, remains to be the acquisition of the building, with the specifics still being worked out.
“There’s a lot of moving parts here that we’re trying to put together very quickly,” said Short.
Judging from the early response by the community, people are ready to step in once those pieces come together.
“The possibilities, I believe, are endless,” Parsons said.