Harlem officials were informed Monday that $40,000 in state funds were approved to renovate the historic former Columbia Theatre building in the city's downtown area.
The local assistance grant was approved as part of the state budget signed by Governor Sonny Perdue, Harlem city attorney Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, told city officials at Monday's monthly city council meeting.
Mayor Scott Dean asked a state subcommittee, made up of state senators and House representatives, for $75,000 earlier this year to begin revitalizing the theater building. It will take $600,000 to $750,000 to renovate the building. Plans are to use it as a performing-arts theater where visual arts and drama will be taught.
Dean said he hopes the funds, required to be matched by the city, become available in July.
"It didn't have to be a dollar for dollar match," Dean said, adding that the Harlem Economic Development and Industry Foundation, which is overseeing the renovation, will contribute $30,000 to $40,000 in donated funds and services, including electrical, heating and air conditioning work.
The Columbia Theatre was the cultural center of the city in the 1950s and '60s, when it showed new movies.
The theater, owned and run by Bill Griffin, closed in the mid '60s when the popularity of television and competition from new theaters elsewhere in the area proved too much for the business.
Since closing, the theater has housed several businesses, including a Georgia Natural Gas office, an antiques store and a consignment shop. The building was vacant for several years before the Harlem Foundation purchased it for $75,209 in January 2005.
The theater has been cleaned out and used occasionally for holiday events and the city's annual Oliver Hardy Festival.
Dean said Ann Blalock, chairwoman of the Harlem Foundation, is working with an architect to see where the grant funds will have the most effect on the theater.
"We want to see where we can make the most impact for that $40,000," Dean said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.