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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 19, 2012

Virginia Theatre Renovation Schedule to be Set in February

The Champaign Park Board expects to decide next month whether extensive upgrades to the Virginia Theatre will be done at all once, or in installments.

The board is still weighing which option is the best advantage in terms of cost, and the schedule of movies and live shows in downtown Champaign's old vaudeville house.

Regardless, the Virginia is expected to close for work in May, following Roger Ebert's 14th Annual Film Festival. It includes paint and plaster restoration, lighting, new seating, and handicapped-accessible facilities. In 2010, the Park District learned it had been awarded a $500-thousand state grant for some of that work. Spokeswoman Laura Auteberry says getting that money could be in question, but the $3-million in renovations will take place regardless.

"It's a reimbursement process," she said. "So there's just always some concern with the financial state that the state of Illinois is in as to whether or not we would actually get our money. But as far we've been told, the money is there, it's in the budget, it's guaranteed. And it can't be used for anything else."

Auteberry says finding the natural progression for that work has slowed things down.

"And trying to identify what that natural progression should be has taken quite a lot of time," Auteberry said. "You have ADA compliance issues, of course all the paint and plaster work that you don't necessarily want to do after you've put all new seats in. You don't want to do the paint and plaster work before you've torn the walls out do to the electrical."

With or without the grant, Auteberry says the work will get done, covering many expenses with reserves and general obligation bonds. The park board will set the theater's renovation schedule at its February 8th meeting.

Commissioner Jane Solon told the park board Wednesday night she recalls voting last year to do the work in installments. A record of that vote couldn't immediately be found, but Auteberry says the board can change its mind next month. If the Virginia work is done all at once, it's expected to take about 10 months.

And if the work is done in installments, Auteberry says one goal will always be to re-open in time for the film festival.

(photo courtesy of the Champaign Park District)


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