New hope for Columbia Theater decontamination, renovation

The Columbia theater in Paducah’s downtown closed 27 years ago.

Several groups have been working together to open the theater again but can’t until they rid the theater of  hazardous materials.

Now city and local leaders are hoping they have the ticket to save the historic theater by way of a federal grant.

To remove the hazardous materials and contaminates from the theater, it will cost $259,000. The group applied for a $200,000 grant through the Environmental Protection Agency.

The grant requires a 20 percent match of the $200,000 so the city will be kicking in $10,000, coming from the city’s general funds.

The rest of the money will come from state funds the Columbia theater and the city previously received from the state level Brownfield Redevelopment Program. It’s a total of $40,000, a chunk of money, but those involved say the payoff will be even greater.

Sheryl Chino is the Grants Administrator for the City of Paducah. She’s been working with the parties most involved in the Columbia Theater’s renovation initiative, “The City and the Columbia Club think it could be a great catalyst for future economic development of our downtown historic commercial district.”

Chino says in order for the Columbia to open its doors, the theater’s deadly contaminates need to be removed before anything else, “With the age of that building its common to have asbestos and lead based paint issues which is what they’re facing as well as two petroleum tanks.”

They all hope a renewed theater will re-energize downtown for buildings and business, patrons and people alike, “Once you bring folks downtown they’ll stay and open other opportunities.”

The deadline for applying for the grant through the EPA is December 19th.  If they don’t receive the funds for the theater, they’ll have to look elsewhere. But they can always reapply for state funds in 8-10 months.

The federal grant only comes once a year, so if this opportunity passes it won’t be until 2016 for the next opportunity.

The Columbia theater does have an entire plan and blueprints for the final product, again only after the asbestos and lead paint contaminates are removed.

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