A $15,000 grant from the Belvedere Historic Preservation Fund will help those behind the renovation of Augusta’s Colonial Theatre complete work on theater’s subfloor by the end of the year.

The gift was approved recently by directors of the Maine Community Foundation.

“What’s important is that people are taking notice a bit that we have our act together,” Tobias Parkhurst, president of the Augusta Colonial Theatre, said Tuesday. “Individuals, companies and foundations are recognizing that this is a viable project.”

Maggie Drummond-Bahl, senior program officer for the Maine Community Foundation, said that in choosing what applications to fund, the foundation’s directors consider buildings with historic significance, buildings that are threatened or in bad shape with urgent repairs needed, the readiness of the organization seeking the money and whether the group can get the work done.

“This is definitely a gift the grants committee was happy to make,” Drummond-Bahl said. “Everyone recognized the landmark this building is and are energized by the momentum in that area of Augusta.”

In recent years, developers have been investing in Water Street buildings to create upscale housing on the upper floors of formerly vacant buildings. At the same time, businesses are launching on the ground floor retail spaces, including Circa 1885, a wine bar that opened earlier this summer, and two restaurants expected to open this fall, Cushnoc Brewing Co. and Otto’s on the River.

Parkhurst is the owner of the building where Cushnoc Brewing Co. is located and is a partner in the business. Parkhurst’s father, Richard — who has championed the theater project — owns and has been redeveloping the building where Otto’s is located.

The gift follows the announcement in August of a $100,000 gift from Kennebec Savings Bank to pay for structural repair of the theater’s main auditorium floor, and a recent grant from the Bangor Savings Bank Foundation of $5,000.

Project supporters have been working to secure $8.5 million to rehabilitate the historic theater on Augusta’s Water Street by writing grant applications and doing fundraising in the community. To date, those efforts have resulted in $750,000 being raised.

“Also, with our tax credit money, we are in even better shape than that,” said Tobias Parkhurst, who is also president of O&P Glass.

The Colonial Theatre, built in 1913, hosted movies for decades until it closed in 1969.

Since then, the building has fallen into disrepair. Years of water leaking through the roof has resulted in a gaping hole in the theater’s floor.

Last year, the theater’s roof was fixed to stop water from pouring into the building. Now that that’s done, Parkhurst said, work can start on the floor. Before that can start, some environmental remediation is required.

“We have been ticking off the (building) envelope items to be done so that people can envision what it will be,” he said.

The next big step is launching the project’s capital campaign and hiring a campaign director, perhaps by the start of 2018.

“We’ve been working on the business plan,” he said, and that includes researching theaters in communities similar to Augusta in size and socio-economic status that are sustainable.

“We have been working through the numbers so we can tell people confidently that the theater will contribute to the economic vitality of downtown Augusta and stay afloat on its own,” he said.

The next construction project might be installing the theater’s marquee.

“Whether or not there’s a donor interested in taking on the project hasn’t been determined, but it would be exciting to knock that off the list,” Tobias Parkhurst said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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