Wells Fargo announced that it is giving $2 million toward renovation of the historic Carolina Theatre on North Tryon Street, built in 1927 and closed since 1978.
The gift puts the campaign at $27 million toward its $35 million goal.
Foundation for the Carolinas intends to renovate the site as a civic space where the community and nonprofits can hold large-scale meetings, stage debates or present lectures.
Kendall Alley, regional vice president for Wells Fargo, said the bank sees the site as symbolic in its potential to bring Charlotteans together.
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“There are a lot of divisive issues out there – whether it be the income divide, racial diversity or sexual orientation– and these issues need a space where people can come together to learn, understand and develop a better way for the community to be,” he said.
“I think that’s the role the Carolina Theatre can play.”
Wells Fargo joins a list of major corporate supporters for the project, including $8 million from the Belk family, $5 million from Bank of America and $1 million from Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine and his wife, Julie.
Community leaders have been proposing renovation of the 36,000-square-foot building for decades, but none of the plans has received enough financial support to get off the ground.
Foundation President Michael Marsicano believes the current success is due partly to the renovation project’s role in a broader plan to revive the North Tryon Street corridor in a vein similar to what has happened on South Tryon Street.
North Tryon Street is home to Discovery Place, the Main Library and Spirit Square and Foundation for the Carolinas, which shares a wall with the Caroline Theatre.
Currently, about 400 civic and nonprofit meetings are held a year at the Foundation for the Carolinas office, which Marsicano says proves there is need for the expanded space available at the Carolina Theatre next door. Plans call for a door to connect the buildings.
“The theater (renovation) has had many false starts over the years, so I am very taken with the swiftness with which this campaign has gone,” Marsicano said.
“I think it has a lot to do with the idea that the foundation’s building just next door has become a hub, and people have a vision for the possibilities at the theater.”
The theater, at 230 N. Tryon St., was once considered among the grandest public halls in Charlotte, with wrought-iron chandeliers, reproductions of priceless Cluny weavings, Moorish tiled floors and a Spanish cathedral window.