Tennessee | 2005 National Preservation Honor Award Winner | Posted: 10/19/2005
The restored landmark Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee reopened in full splendor in January 2005. An extensive rehabilitation, expansion, and modernization program transformed the former 1928 movie palace into a vital economic asset that is the pride of its community.
The theatre debuted a new stage house for the symphony, opera, and a variety of performing arts groups through a dramatically expanded project topping $30 million.
The revitalization of the Tennessee Theatre is an extraordinary example of the commitment of a community to "doing it right" from the start, and investing in the economic and cultural vitality that sustains its region.
The project was achieved through public and private support and the critical windfall of $6 million in tax credits. As one of the pioneering ventures through a partnership of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Banc of America Historic Tax Credit Fund, it is a national model of investment in moderate-size projects eligible for federal historic tax credits. It is also a model for combining those credits with the New Market Tax Credits to create even greater benefits for a critical project.
When the Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928, it was heralded as the premiere "movie palace" in Knoxville. It was described at the time as "the South`s most beautiful theatre", and its lavish interior strove to make kings and queens out of all patrons that entered its doors. In 1977, the Theatre closed, ceasing operations for the first time in fifty years. For the next twenty years, the ownership of the property changed several times, with periodic closings and re-openings. In 1997, the Theatre was donated to Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation, a nonprofit group with a vision and a plan to restore the luster to the "Official State Theatre of Tennessee" by transforming it from an aging movie theater into a state-of-the-art performing arts facility for all of East Tennessee.
PROPERTY AND PROJECT
The theatre was designed by Chicago architects Graven & Mayger and features a Spanish-Moorish style interior with international accents: Czechoslovakian crystals in the French-style chandeliers, Italian terrazzo flooring in the Grand Lobby, and Oriental influences in the carpet and drapery patterns. It retains its classic ticket booth, elegant foyer and grand lobby, elliptical auditorium and a classic Wurlitzer organ. The $30 million rehabilitation drastically improved the Theatre`s capacity to serve host live performances. This includes extensive renovation of its outdated facilities, such as the installation of a cargo elevator, repair of broken and uncomfortable seating, expansion of the stage and new lighting and sound equipment. The worn interior was also spruced up in historically accurate fashion by repainting/plastering interior surfaces and replacing furnishings.
PRESERVATION AND COMMUNITY IMPACT
The Tennessee Theatre is located in the Gay Street Historic District and is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As Knoxville`s "Grand Entertainment Place" for almost seventy-five years, it has a special place in the hearts of generations of residents, and now will inspire many more with its live dance, theatre and musical performances. These include performances by the Knoxville City Ballet, Knoxville City Opera, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and nationally known jazz musicians as well as classic movie screenings.
Property: 60,000 square foot, five story grand theater
Developer: Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation
Historic Status: National Register of Historic Places
Project Goals: Fully modernized yet historically sensitive performing arts center
Total Project Cost: $29.4 million (MM)
Project Financing: $6.06 MM — Federal historic/new markets tax credit equity investment by National Trust Community Investment Fund; $22.4 MM — Grants and fundraising; $1 MM — Deferred developer fee; $4.1 MM — First Tennessee Bank construction bridge loan; $5.0 MM — Bank of America construction bridge loan
For more information contact:
Tennessee Theatre Restoration
c/o Plymouth Soundings, LLC
119 Tanasi Court
Loudon, Tennessee 37774