Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holly Theater Opposition-An Unfortunate Development

The public discussion in Medford over the possibility for the restoration of the Holly Theater by the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation has taken an odd and somewhat disappointing turn.  While most downtown advocates have for years worried about the future of this key landmark and hoped for the best, the actual possibility that it might now be restored seems to have struck fear in the heart of a small but vocal and well-connected segment of the population.  There are those who, apparently, are unable to see a restored Holly as anything other than a direct threat to the Craterian, Medford’s existing performing arts center.  You can read more here:

The Ginger Rogers Craterian Performing Arts Center, is housed in a structure that is loosely based on the historic Craterian Theater, a 1924-era building that was essentially demolished and then rebuilt in the mid-1990s.  Many of the Crate’s supporters  have decided, with little actual information, that the only way a restored Holly will succeed is by stealing its audience and most of its funding from the Craterian, a theater that has struggled financially in recent years.  The concept that restored Holly might draw a different audience (it would) and increase downtown activity or Medford's reputation as an arts center, is not even considered.  This despite the fact that nobody involved with the Holly expects to put on musical theater or the other fare that serve as Craterian staples, or that the Holly's sister-theater, the Cascade, is largely self-supporting on ticket and rental sales, avoiding the need for the major underwriting that backfills the bulk of the Craterian's expenses.  A not-so terribly subtle campaign, including all the nasty-web/reader response comments we can expect in the Internet age, has essentially accused JPR of interloping on the Crate’s turf and put reasonable people on either side of this issue, all of which complicates, and perhaps entirely undermines, the likelihood that the Holly Project will actually go forward.

It is truly unfortunate that an incredible opportunity to return a long-vacant landmark to glory may fail, not due to lack of will, or lack of vision, or even at the moment lack of funding, but instead from misinformation, fear, and what is hard to see as anything other than mild paranoia.  Many communities that are Medford’s size or smaller, boast more than one successful entertainment venue.  This is especially valid given the fact that downtown Medford’s market by all rights includes other communities throughout southern Oregon and northern California, rather coincidentally the very multi-county market that JPR serves with its radio network and its already restored Cascade Theatre, in Redding, California. 

In Medford the Craterian and a restored Holly could easily work together, even sharing some some functions like booking that would reduce expenses for each.  Two theaters could enhance Medford's entertainment reputation and build a new and larger audience for both.  Doing so would, of course, also bolster every other aspect of downtown Medford and could bring new people by the 100s into the city's restaurants and retail outlets.

That is if the Holly ever gets a chance.  Stay tuned.


  1. The Holly has sat vacant and gutted for 24 years and condemned in 2003 and you say that it will be easy (and without any studies) it will only take $3-4 million to restore, whereas the Cascade Theatre was fully operational at the time of purchase in 1999 and you had already done extensive due diligence including engineering studies. JPR said it would only take $1.5-$1.7 to restore and that it would open in 2001. The Cascade actually took over $5.1 million to restore after purchase and didn’t open until 2004. You want the community and City to help purchase it with some urgent timeline and without any studies or business plan – and we’re supposed to just “trust you”?
    Here's the link to the minutes where JPR presented their plan and request for $800,000 in Oregon taxpayer Higher Education bonds to purchase and begin renovation of the Cascade in Redding California.

  2. Mrs. James- Since you are a board member of the Craterian Performing Arts Center, an organization that faced its own trials and tribulations in demolishing and rebuilding a Craterian-like structure, and since that project was undertaken by the contracting company owned by your husband, I would think you, of all people, would be sensitive to the difference between an “estimate” and actual construction costs. That you conflate data on the Cascade to include costs associated with its purchase and the relocation of JPR studios along with those of renovating the theater, is simply unfortunate and wrong. I won’t even bother to go into the issues that resulted in the increased costs of the Cascade but will allow the fact that the City of Redding wholeheartedly supported the award-winning restoration and that the theater has operated in the black every year since to stand on their own.

    But I am most struck by your rather sad effort to carpet-bomb this post all over the web. It is hard to see that action as anything other than a statement of just how little confidence you have in Medford, and in your own theater. I can only hope, as I have stated before, that your sentiments are not those of the Craterian Board. “Mild” paranoia, as I characterized this in my blog, may have been an understatement.

    The Holly Theatre will be renovated and restored as a performing arts center. I strongly suggest that you and the Craterian figure how to benefit from that project. Your opposition is counter-productive for everyone. Especially you.

  3. It is exactly because I do know what I'm talking about that I asked the very clear question in every place that you've made statements - and I DID DEDUCT the cost of acquisition which was $550,000 - and on the Cascade's website it states the total cost was 5.65 million - thus $5.1 million for renovation - not the $1.5 as proposed after your extensive research including engineering studies on a fully operational theater?

    The City of Redding didn't have another community restored and owned theater only blocks away. The Rogue Valley has generously supported the Craterian and continues to do so. You and the media made this issue about them and I intend to question every inaccurate statement you've made since the news reporters don't know what to ask.
    For example - it's easy to claim it's been in the black every year when the JPR Foundation doesn't actually own the Cascade building and is only reflecting gross income to expense and not the building depreciation that the independent Craterian Theater must take on its financial statements. Without that depreciation expense the Craterian has also been in the black every year. According to the IRS 990 form of the JPR Foundation for 2009 - it only cleared $23,000 - if you further deducted a commensurate depreciation amount it would also be in the red.

  4. If the Holly effort is so fated to fail, why are you so afraid of it?

  5. Thanks for this post. The Scoop is glad to see that there are articulate, reasonable people who can see the benefit of the Holly renovation. Performances at the Craterian are WAY out of the budget for most folks in the valley.

    The Scoop is appalled at the short-sightedness of this anti-Holly movement. Does the Crate plan on being the sole entertainment venue in downtown Medford forever?

    This is part of how capitalism and healthy economies work! If it's too crappy to hack it with a bit of competition, it deserves to go under.

  6. Thanks for your feedback, Scoop. Based on recent elsewhere, it would appear that some of this "anti-Holly" venom has dissipated. 'Bout time.

  7. As a sad update, yesterday, May 26, some 30 people got up at a Medford Urban Renewal Agency hearing and voiced support for the Holly project and what it would bring to downtown. Only one person spoke in opposition, not particularly fluently. By looking at the comments above you can take a guess who. Competition, according to Mrs. James, is a good thing for everyone but the Craterian.

  8. As my most recent post on this subject reports (Dec 2012), the Ms. James' of the world, with the surprising and unfortunate support of Mary Cullinan, President of Southern Oregon State University, the former partner of the JPR Foundation, have conspired to effectively kill the momentum and, perhaps, the likelihood that the Holly will ever be completed. It is a shame that visionless people, backed by the funding. authority and contract legal services of the State Board of Higher Education, have dealt the Holly, and downtown Medford, such a critical blow.