AUGUSTA — With the purchase of a Water Street parking lot and a grant to pay for security improvements, the Augusta Colonial Theater is setting the stage for the next steps in its redevelopment.

In 2022, the design plans for the building and its annex are expected to be 50% complete in late spring, and the capital campaign to raise funds to pay for the reconstruction is expected to launch in the fall.

The Colonial, built in 1913 and rebuilt after a fire damaged the original structure in 1926, hosted vaudeville acts in its earlier years and entertained area residents as a movie theater until it closed in 1969.

In recent years, the theater has hosted events, such as the annual River of Trees fundraiser last month and a Business After Hours event last summer with the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, the chamber’s first such live event since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020.

Supporters are now working to make the facility a center for arts and culture in Augusta, with live and streamed performances and events, and an anchor for the redevelopment of the capital city’s downtown neighborhood.

Kathi Wall, executive director of the Augusta Colonial Theater, said the design plans will determine the cost of renovating the historic building.


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of bringing back the original theater building and adding an annex was estimated at $8.2 million, but with supply chain issues and inflation, that is expected to increase.

“It’s really hard to say in this COVID time,” Wall said. “You’re trying to figure finances, and you see the numbers go up and up and up.

“The world is just going to be nuts, and we’re going to have to deal with whatever nuttiness that exists. If you can’t be flexible and adaptable, then you’ll disappear.”

To date, $1.3 million has been raised from a variety of sources and foundations and has been invested in the building. That money has been spent on infrastructure, including replacing the roof, completing a structural analysis and repairing a hole in the theater floor.

A year ago, the front façade of the building was mortared and its Art Deco styling and the galvanized metal decorative element on the roofline were restored, returning the theater to its historic silhouette.

The total spending so far includes a recent grant of $2,700 grant from the 1772 Foundation, which the theater matched, to help pay for outside security lighting, inside motion detectors and an alarm system that will be monitored by Seacoast Security.

The coming year is also expected to usher in the return of the Colonial  Youth Theater Troupe and the Senior Theater. It is also to mark the inaugural appeal to raise money for continuing operations.

“It’s a sign that things continue to move forward,” Wall said, “even in some very dire circumstances.”

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