The Foundation for the Carolinas will likely receive a $4.5 million grant from the city of Charlotte, allowing it to move forward with restoring the Carolina Theatre.
City Council’s economic development committee Thursday voted unanimously to approve the grant, which the foundation said provides the last dollars it will need. The full council must vote on awarding the money later this month.
Foundation CEO Michael Marsicano said he has already “played all of my remaining philanthropic cards.”
He told council members that other city cultural facilities, such as Knight Theater and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, were built entirely with public money.
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The budget for restoring the 1920s-era theater came in at $56 million, the foundation said – higher than anticipated because of rising costs to build; the cost of asbestos, lead and mold abatement; and “unanticipated challenges” with the old building. The foundation cut back on some planned improvements to reduce the budget to $51.5 million.
Most of the $51.5 million budget has been raised from private sources, but the foundation is $4.5 million short of its goal.
The Carolina Theatre redevelopment has been long planned, since the city of Charlotte gave the building to the foundation in 2012 for $1. In March, the foundation announced that a 20-story, 270-room InterContinental hotel with a rooftop restaurant – the city’s first location for the high-end brand – would rise above the theater. The hotel tower will be developed on the site that had been used as a small park since the Democratic National Convention.
The hotel, developed by a private group leasing air rights from the foundation, would have a taxable value of $90 million, city officials have said. Total tax revenues generated annually from the building itself and the occupancy and sales taxes would $4 million.
The $4.5 million grant would come from the city’s hotel/motel occupancy tax, which is restricted for tourism projects and can’t be used for things such as police, fire and roads.
The foundation has fenced off the site and started clearing the park location. They’ve also taken the former Carolina Theatre facade from its storage beneath the stage to start reassembling it.
The restored theater – with paintings, seating, lobby and facade renovated to resemble the original – will be largely used for community meetings, music shows, movies and other civic gatherings. It won’t have the backstage space to accommodate a larger stage show, such as the Broadway musicals that tour venues like the Blumenthal Theater.