AUGUSTA — The Colonial Theater needs a full-time effort to get its restoration project to the next stage.

That’s why volunteers who have been working to save and reopen the historic — but long-vacant — downtown theater are looking to hire a full-time executive director. They are seeking someone with the skills to raise the millions of dollars required to restore the theater, oversee that restoration and run the place when construction is done.

With about 35 applicants for the job within roughly a week of the search beginning, theater advocates are optimistic they’ll find the right person. The job will come with a paycheck of $65,000 to $75,000 annually.

In addition to the aforementioned salary, the job will give someone a unique opportunity to play a key role in bringing the neglected but now under-renovation Water Street theater back to life, which volunteers hope will have the same effect on the rest of downtown Augusta.

“It would be a very rewarding experience for the right person,” said Andrew Silsby, chairman of the Colonial Theater’s executive director search committee. “This will be a challenge, and it’s not going to be without its headaches, but it will also be fun. I think it’s going to be transformative for the downtown.”

Silsby and Tobias Parkhurst, president of the theater’s board of directors, said the project has come far with the efforts of volunteers but needs a paid, full-time person to get to the next level.

“We’ve raised close to $1 million on volunteer steam,” said Parkhurst, whose father, Richard Parkhurst, was a prime instigator in getting the theater restoration efforts moving. “And we’ve made tremendous improvements to the building, gotten it to a place where it’s structurally sound and weather-tight, and we think it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll and get some full-time help. We’re looking for the best fit to get us to the next point.”

Improvements already made to the theater include roof repairs, structural work and a new floor.

The fundraising goal for the project is $8.5 million, which would restore the theater, create a 13,000-square-foot addition on a vacant lot next to it — for bathrooms and to make the facility accessible to people with disabilities — and provide money to help pay for theater operations for the first couple of years, until it becomes established.

The salary range to be offered for the position was determined, Silsby and Parkhurst said, by reviewing what the job entails and what similar jobs pay across the country, and with help from a human resources leader at Kennebec Savings Bank, where Silsby is the president.

Silsby said there will be a nationwide search to find the right person. Thus far, applicants have come from within Maine and from as far away as California. He said they’ll take applications into mid-January and hope to have someone on the job by March.

Michael Hall, a board member of the theater and executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said it’s important for the historic theater to have someone with a full-time focus to drive the project home. He said a restored theater would be a tremendous boost and help revitalize downtown and the entire surrounding area.

“It’s huge. It could be the linchpin to this downtown, to have a cultural center,” Hall said. “The economic impact — as you have shows there, and people get out of the shows and spend money on the street — that’s invaluable.”

Parkhurst said he’s confident the group can afford to hire an executive director. He said they’re anticipating the position would become self-sustaining, in that enough money will be raised to both pay the director and restore and reopen the theater.

He said the director’s day-to-day work would include coordinating ongoing and future programming, completing development of the design of the facility, fundraising, and getting out in the community to keep volunteers and community members engaged in the project.

Parkhurst said they’re looking not just for a short-term hire to raise funds for the theater, or someone to build it and depart. The idea is to find someone with the combination of skills to raise funds, oversee construction, and stick around long-term to oversee operations of the theater after it reopens.

Silsby said the ideal candidate will have fundraising and development experience, and the capabilities to run a modern entertainment facility, oversee a major construction project and be the face of the theater.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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