Why was the theater located on the upper floors of the Woodward Building?
Before electricity and elevators, the prime real estate in multi-story buildings was the ground floor, where there was more pedestrian traffic and easy access. Upper floors were better suited for professional offices. Basically the higher the floor, the lower the rent. And since theaters were (and still are) not big money makers, they were often relegated to upper floors.
Who owns the Woodward?
Legally, The Woodward Development Corporation (WDC), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, owns the Woodward property and neighboring Annex building. As a 501(c)(3) organization with no stockholder owners, the Woodward really belongs to the entire community.
The WDC Board of Trustees that manage the day-to-day operations of the facility is made up of community leaders in business, civic sectors, and the arts.
Is the Woodward building safe?
The Woodward and Annex buildings are perfectly safe. Structural engineers and historic masonry specialists from three different professional firms have examined the Woodward and declared it sound. Where needed, minor reinforcement and repointing of exterior walls has been completed. Other minor structural reinforcement of the floors has been completed to bring the Woodward up to current code requirements.
When will the Woodward project be completed, and what will it consist of?
By December 31, 2017. The 65,000 square foot complex will include:
- The 500-seat restored Woodward Opera House theater
- Two smaller (80-100 seats) performing arts venues
- Fully restored Woodward and Annex structures
- New steel and concrete addition to the Annex
- Woodward and Annex structures integrated
- All fully operational, from basement to roof
Approximately half of the space will be devoted to performing arts and culture, and half producing rental income.
What will the total project cost, and how will it be financed?
About $25,000,000. Over $5,000,000 already raised and spent. Over $14,000,000 in Federal and State Historic and New Market tax credits, a State of Ohio capital grant, plus $3,000,000 local private donations fund current restoration and construction. A local capital campaign and national non-governmental foundation grants will provide the balance, $3,000,000.
Will the Woodward be a burden to the community by being in constant need of funding?
No. The theater, two smaller rehearsal/performance venues, and theater-related space occupy about half of the total 65,000 square feet in the project. The Woodward Development Corporation (WDC) is committed to financially support local arts, educational, and cultural entities using these spaces.
The other half of the project will provide this financial support. That space is being restored/renovated/rebuilt to become attractive income-producing rental spaces. With no debt, and no stockholders seeking dividends, WDC believes rental income will be sufficient to maintain the entire facility AND provide funds to support local arts, educational, and cultural entities using the facility.
Why do we need another theater in Knox County?
The three venues in the project, the 500-seat theater, and the smaller 80-100 seat multipurpose venues, are considerably smaller than the 1200-seat Memorial Theater. Local performing arts groups seldom need, nor can afford, to use a 1200-seat venue. Also the theaters at Kenyon College and Mount Vernon Nazarene University are fully booked during the school year, and are not centrally located as the venues in the Woodward. Plus the Woodward venues will be cheaper to use by locals.
Who would want to rent space in an old building?
The restored/renovated/rebuilt spaces in the project will be attractive, technologically up to date, flexible, and generally smaller than similar spaces in downtown Mount Vernon. These spaces are more suited to 21st century commercial realities. The complexion of downtown Mount Vernon reflects these realities, having changed dramatically and now more focused on services such as education, health, and the arts, and less on traditional retailing. Rental spaces in the Woodward are well suited to these realities.
Is there enough parking downtown for larger events?
Downtown Mount Vernon has more public parking than you think. There are 1,482 public parking spaces located within 4 blocks of the Woodward.
Are the downtown people and businesses supporting the project?
Yes. The "downtown people" in Mount Vernon are very different today from who they were only a few years ago. Central Ohio Technical College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and most recently Knox Community Hospital and Kenyon College, are now a part of downtown. Use of both the theater and non-theater spaces in the Woodward will complement these new residents. And the theater venues will bring more foot traffic to the central business district, especially after 5:00 p.m., a time when downtowns usually "die." Completion of the Woodward project, combined with the new hotel and the other new entities, constitute a new "critical mass" that will be an economic driver for Knox County.