LEWISTOWN - The long-awaited phase one of construction on the Embassy Theatre is set to begin in early April, said Friends of the Embassy President Paul Fagley. Construction will focus on the exterior of the building, creating the sound foundation required for work inside the theater, he said.
"Phase one involves updating the outside of the building and making sure that everything is structurally sound," Fagley said. "Since the front of the building was finished a number of years ago, we'll be repairing the side and rear walls. We'll also be adding new fire exits and a new roof membrane."
The outside work has been contracted through bid process to BCS Construction Inc., located in Altoona, while the building design is being handled by Robert Keal, an architect from Bellefonte. Phase one construction is expected to take six to eight weeks, Fagley said.
The project is funded through the Save America's Treasures federal grant and the Keystone Historic Preservation state grant, contributing $246,000 and $85,000 respectively to the restoration process, Fagley said.
"The grants are considered reimbursement funding, meaning we have to pay the bill first and then we get the money back," Fagley said. "We partnered with Fulton Bank, in State College, for a bridge loan to meet the grant requirements so we could begin construction. This work really should have been done two years ago."
After phase one is complete, Friends of the Embassy will begin fundraising to pay for the creation of an architectural master plan, tentatively designed by Westlake Reed Leskosky, an architectural firm that specializes in historic preservation and restoration.
"Our goal is to raise $25,000 by the end of the year to pay for the architectural master plan," Fagley said. "While we work on that, the firm will have various specialists visit the theater to create the final blueprint."
The first fundraising event is the annual Embassy Fair set for April 23 through April 28, Fagley said. The fair will be held at Kish Park with rides, food and entertainment.
"Depending on the weather, we tend to raise about $2,000 at the fair each year," Fagley said. "Generally, it's just enough to cover the overhead cost of owning the Embassy building. However, it provides enough that we aren't focused on excessive fundraising to pay monthly bills."
Toward the end of the year, the Friends of the Embassy plan to have a capital campaign in place to raise the majority of funds needed to complete the master plan project and begin interior renovation of the theater, Fagley said.
Though plans for the capital campaign are still in the works, Fagley anticipates a community announcement later in the year.
For more information on the Embassy Fair, visit The Historic Embassy Theatre Facebook page. Information on the Embassy Theatre is available at www.embassytheatre.org.