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Holly restore hits $10 million

Restoring Medford’s Holly Theatre to its former glory will cost $10 million — more than double the original estimate because of skyrocketing construction costs.

“Somebody picked up the goal posts and moved them farther away,” said Randy McKay, executive director of Jefferson Live!, a group affiliated with the JPR (Jefferson Public Radio) Foundation, which purchased the Holly in 2011.

McKay said the good news is that Holly supporters have enough money lined up to allow the first phase of interior work to begin in June, with an anticipated opening date toward the end of 2019.

The last date to see the Holly before the remodeling begins is during an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 2.

Since 2011, when the Holly remodel was first discussed, costs for construction and materials have soared from the earlier estimate of $4.3 million.

“Lumber has gone up 50 percent,” McKay said. “Everything’s expensive.” Some of the big-ticket items include electrical systems and heating and air conditioning, which will each cost $1 million.

Miles of cables and electrical wires will be fed throughout the building to handle the stage lighting and other features of the auditorium.

“This is a power-hungry building,” McKay said.

With $3 million in the bank and another $3 million in financing, McKay said he still has to raise another $2 million over the next year and a half to see the project completed. He said $2 million already has been spent on the Holly, for restoration work on the facade and other improvements in the interior as well as design, engineering and architectural fees.

He said he’s still looking for opportunities to cut costs, such as finding used seats that will be about half the price to refurbish versus buying new seats.

Many of the old fixtures from the Holly, including chandeliers and decorative features, have been salvaged and will be restored.

The Holly was built in 1930 and was a popular destination for Jackson County residents who wanted to catch a movie in the Spanish colonial revival building with a Venetian-themed interior, designed by Rogue Valley architect Frank C. Clark.

When the JPR Foundation decided to buy the Holly, it completed the facade work to much fanfare, but the project was stalled during a feud between JPR and Southern Oregon University officials.

Since then, supporters regrouped, enlisting backing from actor Jim Belushi and other community members. In 2017, the Holly received a $1 million grant from the Oregon Legislature.

The work that will begin in June will primarily involve demolition to prepare the interior for remodeling.

“We’re getting the building prepped for the heavy construction,” McKay said.

In the front of the building are four retail shops, which will be converted to two large spaces by removing an interior wall. A VIP lounge will be built in the storefront on the corner of Sixth and Holly streets. The other office on Sixth will become a box office in the front and administrative space in the back.

Just off the entry lobby, an elevator will be installed. Currently the Holly doesn’t have an elevator.

Local restoration expert George Kramer said a lot of the finish treatments and materials have started to get dialed in for the project.

While there has been an attempt to keep the building historically accurate, Kramer said the renovated Holly will have more and larger bathrooms.

“Everything will still be respectful of history,” Kramer said.

Ken Silverman, president of the JPR Foundation, said he’s excited to see work resume on the theater and to see the significant fundraising efforts that will make it happen.

“The Holly’s going to be an asset to Medford and the Rogue Valley,” he said.

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneRandy McKay inside the Holly Theatre Wednesday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneInside the Holly Theatre Wednesday afternoon.