ST GEORGE, Utah – City crews have started a major renovation intended to give a spark of new life into St. George's downtown area.
The historic Electric Theatre is on its way to become a performing art center.
The Electric Theatre, 68 E. Tabernacle Street, was built in the 1910’s and showed movies up until 1999. After that it became a venue for concerts and private parties, but ultimately fell into disrepair. The city bought the theatre in 2013 with a restoration goal in mind.
“The goal of the city is to really bring the performing and visual arts back down to the downtown area,” said St. George City spokesman Marc Mortensen. “So this building will be primarily used for those purposes.”
Restoring a century-old building isn’t cheap. Last week the St. George City Council approved a bid of just over $3 million for the renovation. That will demolish two buildings adjacent to the theatre, rebuild them and completely restore the theater to its early 1900s glory days.
“We want to preserve what’s here, even the smells -- the things that make this building unique,” Mortensen said. “We really want to preserve those things.”
Residents we spoke with say they’re excited to see something happen with the building, but worry about the high price tag.
“Three million dollars is a lot of money for the city to spend and there have been a lot of venues that haven’t survived,” said St. George resident Deborah Spitzer. “And you just want to make sure they’re not using money that could be used better elsewhere.”
City officials say the goal of the theatre is not to compete with other performing arts centers, but hopes to compliment them and offer another place for the community to showcase its talents.
“[The city council] thinks it’s well-worth the investment -- especially since we anticipate this building being here for the next century to enjoy,” Mortensen said.
Demolition has already begun in some areas of the buildings. The renovations are expected to be complete in the spring of 2015.