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Showtime getting nearer for the Holly

Full restoration of the historic 1930 Holly Theatre in Medford could start in early 2017, according to supporters of a project that has had a number of false starts over the years.

"We are within striking distance of getting this project underway," said Steve Nelson, president of the JPR Foundation. "We are very, very close."

Nelson said he hopes to start construction around the beginning of 2017, with the grand reopening held in early 2018.

He said the foundation is still securing grants and lining up donors, but 75 percent of the $4.3 million needed for restoration is in hand.

The Oregon Legislature's Capital Construction Subcommittee approved a $1 million appropriation during its regular session earlier this year. The news followed an announcement that philanthropist James Collier will pay for the building's elevator, a six-figure gift that is the largest single gift to the restoration project.

Hammond Construction Co. renovated the façade of the Holly in 2012 and repaired cracked structural beams in the ceiling. After that work, political turmoil at Southern Oregon University and at Jefferson Public Radio stalled the renovation work.

The foyer of the Holly was renovated in 2015 to give locals some idea of what the inside would look like. The Venetian-themed interior of the building, designed by Rogue Valley architect Frank C. Clark, was a popular destination for Jackson County residents who wanted to catch a movie in the 1,000-seat building.

Actor and local resident Jim Belushi has held a number of fundraisers in support of the Holly, which will feature concerts and other shows when it reopens.

Nelson said final drawings and engineering for the building probably will be in hand in a couple of weeks.

He said he would like to have 80 percent of the donations and grants before construction begins. Once local residents see that work is underway, more donations should come in fairly quickly, Nelson said.

"Once we get on site, and people see what's going on, then people will really get involved," he said.

Jefferson Live!, a subsidiary of the JPR Foundation, has retrieved bits and pieces of the interior that were lost over time. A relatively new sound system already has been purchased that will help fine-tune the theater for concerts.

Nelson said he expects some escalation in the cost of remodeling the Holly, particularly because the estimates were made several years ago.

Mark McKechnie of Oregon Architecture in Medford said the drawings and engineering work have so far been favorable to the Holly.

"I haven't seen anything that would be a giant, 'Oh, my God,' " he said. "My hope, my plan, is to go for a building permit right after the holidays."

McKechnie said there were "rumors" that the trusses wouldn't support the weight of a conventional ceiling and lighting, but those proved unfounded.

He said he's working with a lot of subcontractors in developing the plans for the renovation work.

Dave Hammonds, president of Hammonds Construction Co. of White City, said he's waiting for the last drawings and engineering diagrams to get a better sense of what his costs will be to restore the Holly.

He said everything seems to be coming together to begin construction in the near future.

"We're getting close," he said.

Hammonds has been working on the Holly since 2012, saying it's a labor of love and that his company won't make a profit off it.

"We're pretty much making nothing," he said. "Sure, we'll get enough to cover all the subs and suppliers. My time is definitely going to be donated. But I really like historical stuff anyway."

He said a lot of the subcontractors are also committed to seeing the Holly restored. Everyone who is involved in the project wants to make sure it looks pretty much like it did when it opened in 1930, with a few modern enhancements, including air conditioning, modern plumbing, access to those with disabilities, an elevator and several other improvements, Hammond said.

"I just want to see that things get done right," he said.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.