Politics & Government

Foundation needs $4.5 million in public money to renovate historic theater

The Foundation for the Carolinas is seeking $4.5 million in public money to restore the Carolina Theatre. The plan calls for a 250-room InterContinental hotel to rise atop the renovated and restored theater.
The Foundation for the Carolinas is seeking $4.5 million in public money to restore the Carolina Theatre. The plan calls for a 250-room InterContinental hotel to rise atop the renovated and restored theater. mmathis@charlotteobserver.com

The Foundation for the Carolinas is seeking $4.5 million from the city of Charlotte to finish restoring the historic but dilapidated Carolina Theatre.

Five years ago, City Council voted to give the theater to the foundation for $1. The foundation has raised most of the nearly $50 million needed for the restoration, but the group has fallen $4.5 million short, said Ron Kimble, who works for the city on tourism projects.

“They believe they have maxed out on private-sector fundraising,” Kimble said. “They are fearful of scaling the project back. That leaves a $4.5 million gap.”

Council members voted Monday to discuss the request at their economic development committee meeting July 13.

If they agree to help renovate the theater, the money would come from the city’s hotel/motel occupancy tax, which is restricted for tourism projects. That money can’t be used for police and fire, roads or affordable housing.

Council members are also debating whether to grant another request, which would also use tourism dollars. Council members voted Monday to consider in July whether to help build a new $175 million soccer stadium in Elizabeth.

The city in January tentatively agreed to spend $43.5 million toward the stadium. But Kimble told council members Monday that $30 million was the city’s limit. He said the city has other projects competing for the same tourism dollars, including the theater.

The theater has been closed since 1978.

The foundation, which has assets of more than $2 billion, wants to join the renovated theater with its headquarters next door. In addition to a venue to host plays, movies and concerts, the foundation has said the theater could be a community meeting space.

The foundation has an agreement to build a 250-room InterContinental hotel on top of the theater’s lobby, which is where a small park has been until recently. That’s supposed to open in 2019.

Kimble said the hotel’s taxable value will be more than $90 million. Kimble is the former deputy city manager for the city.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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