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Jefferson Live! head says Holly Theatre should open in 3 years

 Posted: 2:00 AM February 02, 2013

A renovated Holly Theatre should reopen for live performances in three years, said the newly hired executive director of the JPR Foundation's theater division.

"I would say, given the current scope of the project, that we could start construction within a year to a year and a half, and have the doors open in three years at the most," said Randy Bobst-McKay.

The Jefferson Foundation board announced this week that Bobst-McKay would start as executive director of Jefferson Live!, a newly created company that will run the Cascade Theatre in Redding and restore the Holly Theatre in downtown Medford.

The 43-year-old resident of San Jose, who has family in Klamath Falls, will begin his new job on March 18.

Bobst-McKay is currently vice president for marketing and finance at Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose, Calif., and helped with the $75 million restoration of the historic California Theatre in downtown San Jose.

He was also general manager of the Empress Theatre in Vallejo, Calif., and spearheaded the $8 million renovation while overcoming hurdles such as the city declaring bankruptcy and the economic downturn.

Bobst-McKay said the brick construction of the Empress also required unexpected seismic upgrades that added to the cost. The renovation was a three-way partnership with Vallejo Community Arts, the city and downtown developer Triad Communities.

After the renovation, the theater almost closed down because its funding dried up, Bobst-McKay said. A donor provided enough operating money to keep it going, he said.

"The timing was a perfect storm there," he said. "Even with all that, it opened."

The Empress was a difficult building to assess prior to the renovation, but the Holly appears to be more accessible and shouldn't present as many unforeseen situations, he said. The Holly was also built with reinforced concrete walls.

"It is pretty straightforward compared to the other projects I've worked on," Bobst-McKay said.

Working primarily with the JPR Foundation board will make it easier to organize the financing of the project, he said.

The programming at the Cascade Theatre, which runs in the black, will make it easier to book the same acts at the Holly, Bobst-McKay said.

Tom Bartee, a former Vallejo city councilor, said Bobst-McKay continued spearheading the fundraising efforts for the Empress Theatre despite the hurdles he encountered.

"He's got a great level of perseverance and drive," Bartee said.

The Empress was envisioned as the cornerstone of an arts and entertainment district and was a key component for redeveloping an area in the downtown, Bartee said.

Once the renovation was completed, the theater struggled to provide the right kind of programming, he said.

"They've finally realized it needs to be more of a regional draw to be successful," he said.

Bobst-McKay is familiar with tax credit financing, which will be one of the main fundraising components of the Holly restoration.

"We think he's a home run," said Steve Nelson, president of the JPR Foundation board.

Nelson said Bobst-McKay should be able to quickly invigorate the fundraising efforts of the Holly and get the financing portion ramped up in short order.

"We've been derailed for nine months on the Holly," he said. "It's time to get going."

Nelson said Bobst-McKay is aware of the local politics and the turmoil at JPR last year that led to the ouster of its former executive director.

"We were as blunt as we could possibly be with him," Nelson said.

Nelson said he's sticking with the $3.5 million cost estimate to renovate the Holly, which has already had its facade renovated as well as some structural work inside.

But the delays could be a problem, because as the economy improves the estimates from contractors could increase, Nelson said.

"My biggest fear is we have lost the window," he said.

But, he's hopeful that work can begin on the Holly sooner rather than later to take advantage of lower construction costs.

Nelson referred any questions about Bobst-McKay's salary to Paul Westhelle, executive director of JPR. Westhelle said he would leave any questions of Bobst-McKay's salary to Nelson.

Nelson said he wasn't comfortable releasing Bobst-McKay's salary, saying it's in the $50,000 to $70,000 range.

Jefferson Live! also has another project that has been placed on the back burner.

The JPR Foundation owns the old Medford Grocery Warehouse on 10th Street, which it was planning to convert into new headquarters for the radio station.

"I haven't dived into that project," Bobst-McKay said. "At the moment, the Holly is the focus."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.


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