DEWITT — On Wednesday morning, the Clinton County Community Development Association issued a $150,000 grant to the DeWitt Theater Co. for renovations and expansions to the Operahouse Theatre. On Wednesday afternoon, the project received a $135,000 award from the Vision Iowa Board in the form of a Community Attraction and Tourism Program grant.

The Vision Iowa Board approved grants totaling more than $2.4 million from the CAT fund at the June Vision Iowa Board meeting in Bettendorf. Awards also were given to projects in Dike, Cedar Rapids, Decorah, Keokuk County and New Hampton.

The total projected cost of the Operahouse project is estimated at $550,000. The DTC had requested $175,000 from the state. The project comes nearly 25 years after the community raised more than $300,000 in the late 1970s and early 1980s to purchase the deteriorating Old Majestic Theater and refurbish it for movies, live performances and meetings. After a quarter of a century, the 1878 building now is in need of another revamping.

This time, the major focus of the project is handicapped accessibility. Despite all the improvements that have been made over the years, easy access still is a problem for mobility-impaired patrons.

While portable ramps are available on request, they are cumbersome to put up and that still doesn’t solve the problem of the restrooms being down another flight of stairs.

Discussion of the Operahouse’s current needs began in 2003 when the theater group was able to buy the building directly to the north thanks to a bequest from the late Barbara Olson and a grant from the DeWitt Area Community Foundation.

According to estimates released in January, acquisition, demolition and site work are expected to cost about $105,400. New construction to expand the lobby area, add rest rooms on the main floor, reconfigure the concession stand and modify the entrance is estimated at $204,000.

The price tag for handicapped accessibility is about $21,600, which includes main-floor rest rooms and a mechanical lift inside the front doors.

About $73,100 is earmarked for interior repairs, including relocation of the concession stand as well as the staircases to the balcony and basement; improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; and replacement of flooring materials.

New seats with cup holders are priced at $25,100. The total number of seats will not be increased. Exterior repairs and signage add another $67,800 for a grand total of $497,000.

Planners hope to receive grant assistance for the project, but like the original effort, much of the funding will be raised locally through private individual and corporate contributions and a host of grassroots fund-raisers.

“This month’s list of projects offers the breadth and scope of recreational opportunities that the Vision Iowa Program was founded upon,” Vision Iowa Board Chairman Andy Anderson said in a press release. “From observatories to skate parks, these projects represent the types of quality-of-life amenities that make a community thrive. We are glad to be a partner on such great community efforts.”

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