The Eatonton City Council approved a request by the Plaza Arts Center Board to submit two grant applications that could help with some much-needed repairs at the old schoolhouse, which was converted into a charming event center.
Sara Tomson-Hooper, a member of the Plaza Arts Center Board, addressed Mayor and Council on Aug. 7 regarding the grant applications.
“The Plaza Arts Center is committed to supporting the facility and addressing facility needs,” Tomson-Hooper said, “Particularly the ones that were outlined in the Oconee Engineering report.”
Oconee Engineering was commissioned by the city in June 2017 to assess the building, and after receiving the results, the board researched potential funding sources that focused specifically on capital needs of performing arts centers.
Two sources which seemed to fit for the Plaza and its needs were from The Fox Theater Institute and The Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.
The basis for those applications are specifically related to the engineering report and getting funds for the items listed there.
Outlined in that report were recommendations to restore and preserve the brick facade, repair or replace windows, address the transfer beam for structural issue above the auditorium and address the repointing that’s needed in the brick.
After receiving approval and a letter of recommendation from City Council, Plaza officials submitted a grant request on Aug. 14 for $66,400 to the Fox Theater Institute, which offers a preservation grant, also called a bricks and mortar grant.
Tomson-Hooper said those funds would assist with installing a steel transfer beam in the attic above the auditorium, fixing a beam in the crawl space and capping a drain in the crawl space.
The Fox Theater Institute has strict requirements to be eligible for grant awards, including insisting on three bids for any work over $10,000 that they are going to contribute.
“It’s very competitive and the application is quite comprehensive,” Tomson-Hooper said, noting that the largest grant the Institute will fund is up to $250,000.
Tomson-Hooper advised the Institute had 30 applications last year and funded less than half of those.
“We will receive notice in late October regarding whether or not funding will be awarded,” she told The Eatonton Messenger.
The Fox Institute has funded Greensboro Festival Hall and Madison Cultural Center, as has The Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.
The Lettie Pate Evans Foundation is an independent private foundation that supports major Atlanta arts and cultural institutions.
Although the Foundation’s grant making focus is on metro Atlanta, they also consider organizations operating throughout the state that have strong leadership and a broad base of support.
Lettie Pate Evans Foundation does not have a match requirement and they do not specify an amount.
“It’s a little bit more flexible,” Tomson-Hooper said. “However, what they do require is a letter of intent with some of the cash funds.”
She said when submitting the grant application, it benefited Eatonton to be a part of the Main Street program, which also gave the organization a letter of recommendation to help support the project.
Plaza officials plan to submit the application to The Lettie Foundation by Sept. 1.
“The exact amount of the request is yet to be determined,” Tomson-Hooper said, “but it will most likely be for approximately $128,000.”
Those funds would assist with the installation of brick tension ties as well as the strengthening of other attic transfer beams.
“We will receive feedback within one month,” Tomson-Hooper said. “If interested, someone from the foundation will most likely do a site visit and then place the application on the agenda to be reviewed at their December Board meeting.”
Tomson-Hooper told The Messenger that, in addition to those grant requests, The Plaza submitted a request to the Community Foundation of Central Georgia on June 30 for $19,200 to assist with capital needs of the community center.
Those funds are slated to help install a security system with cameras, update the bathrooms, secure teaching accessories and replace flooring in the main hallway and reception area.
“We will receive notice in late September regarding whether or not (that) funding will be awarded,” Tomson-Hooper said.
Another project already active is to repair and replace windows at the historical building might help push those grant applications toward approval.
The city already designated $80,000 in SPLOST proceeds for those repairs so Plaza officials used that funding for some of the match required when applying for the Fox Institute grant, which requires a one-to-one match.
A Plaza Arts Center window committee was created to look for solutions to restore the building without losing its authenticity.
That committee advised that not all of the windows needed to be replaced.
“Some of the sashes needed to be replaced and rather than replacing all the windows, they looked at alternative solutions of replacing sashes,” Tomson-Hooper said, noting that some of the cloudy windowpanes would also need replacing.
Referring to the results of the engineering study, Council member Alvin Butts questioned whether the building was safe.
“Are ya‘ll still using the building? Is it a safety issue?” Butts asked Tomson-Hooper.
“The particular area they are referring to is not the main access of the building,” City Administrator Gary Sanders said. “The tiebacks are in the rear of the building.”
Sanders said that where the stage had been cut into the back of the building there are walls that have some slant to them that warrant needing tiebacks.
“So that is something we wanted engineers to provide some guidance on and if it’s determined that entrance needs to be closed, that’s something we can do,” Sanders said.