Restoring the Bohm — Theatre renovation plans coming together

Standing empty since 2008, downtown Albion’s Bohm Theatre is getting closer to a revamped exterior and refurbished interior.

In the form of a title to the property, a major roadblock was removed from the advancement of the project on Sept. 15th. The nonprofit corporation known as the “Friends of the Bohm” now holds ownership of the theatre, which was purchased from Calhoun County. With ownership comes responsibility for any construction projects in the future — and this future is coming sooner rather than later.

“The bids for construction to replace the roof and for tuck pointing and shoring of the back (east) wall were reviewed this past Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. We have nearly all the money we need for the matching funds for the grant,” said Nidia Wolf, Albion Downtown Development Authority executive director, and Friends of the Bohm board member.

Once 25 percent of the total funds for this grant have been raised, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match it with the remaining 75 percent. Totaling $250,000, this Façade Grant is only one form of monetary aide being received. The local Anderson Ethanol Plant has supplied a matching grant, and part of the Reader’s Digest winnings were allocated for the Bohm restoration as well. This funding is just shy of the $355,000 needed for exterior stabilization.

To cover this deficit smaller grants have been applied for, with results pending. Still, plans for the building continue to move forward.

“The concerns have been the exterior on the back and the roof and roof drains. They will be reworked this fall before the snow flies,” Wolf said.

However, new drains are not the only updates the building is to receive. As the Façade Grant covers the entire exterior, changes will be made that reflect upon the Bohm’s historical aspect. According to Mary Slater, a board member of the Friends of the Bohm, the community has expressed interest in keeping the current marquee from the 1940’s above the main entrance.

“Restoration of the marquee and doors would take place in the spring,” Slater said, adding, “Next step would be the interior, like the plaster and carpeting.”

Interior renovation would lead the Theatre to the Friends’ first goal – playing movies for the inhabitants of Albion. Residents have also supported the decision to house a single screen in the theatre (the original setup), in lieu of the triplex arrangement currently present. Consisting of two screens on the split balcony and one on the main floor, this setup is not conducive to possible future uses of the Bohm, other than showing movies. Eventually speakers, plays and band performances will take place on a refurbished stage with fly lofts (theatrical rigging).

“This is anticipated to be a three to five year restoration project,” said Elizabeth Schultheiss, executive director of the Albion Community Foundation. “Timing of this restoration will depend on our ability to raise funds.”

photo courtesy of Emily TenEyck

1 Comment

  1. I was around for the 1990’s version of this, and it was pretty sweet. They renovated the inside and did some exterior work and stuff at the time. Saw ‘The Fifth Element’ there and maybe a couple of others. Hopefully they can get it going again and make it last for even longer!

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