Lebanon, VA (May 19, 2017) – Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Executive Director Jonathan Belcher delivered some brief remarks at a press conference Friday at the site of the new Raven Theater and Coal Museum in Tazewell County regarding VCEDA’s involvement in the project. It was announced the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission had agreed to provide the match funding which was needed to allow the renovation and restoration project to move forward.
“VCEDA was pleased to approve the initial grant of $125,000 for this project in late 2016, but noted the grant fund award was subject to the Raven Theater and Coal Museum non-profit group’s ability to secure match funding from another source,” Belcher, who also serves as VCEDA general counsel said. “The announcement of the Tobacco Commission funding approval paves the way for VCEDA to close on its grant award to the non-profit as early as next week.”
Last December, VCEDA approved up to $125,000 for the project through the VCEDA Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund provided the non-profit group was able to secure at least $125,000 in matching funds from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission or some other source to be used to renovate and restore the historic Raven Theater. The matching funds requirement is a requirement of the fund from which the VCEDA funds are being allocated.
The Raven Theater was originally built during the Great Depression and was a highlight of the community for many years, operating as a movie theater, with an ice cream parlor being added around 1948. During these years, it featured westerns and black and white movies popular during that era. In recent years, a group of local citizens came together interested in renovating and re-opening the theater as a means of bringing tourism to the area.
It was noted that due in large part to donated time, materials and private contributions, much work has already been accomplished on the restoration. The marquee sign has been restored, the building has been cleaned out and stabilized, new concrete flooring installed, and several other improvements have also been made.
The grant funding will allow the non-profit group to complete the first phase of the project which includes completing the renovation of the theater building, paving the parking lot, acquiring and installing the needed furniture, fixtures and equipment and adding new restroom facilities.
Plans are to show classic movies on a regular basis as a revenue source, as well as hosting musical performances such as bluegrass and gospel music at the theater. The group would also like to reopen the ice cream parlor, which was popular during its time due to a special recipe for the ice cream. Plans call for the second floor of the building to be used for rental space for meetings and other functions, as well as having a dedicated space for the public to use a computer to assist with job searches and job applications. Phase II of the project, which would come later, would involve a possible outdoor amphitheater, additional parking and a coal museum to be located on an adjacent piece of property.
Within the first year, it is anticipated the project will employ one full-time and nine part-time employees and within five years, five full-time and seven part-time employees.