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Public comment period now open on federal grant to be awarded to historic theater in St. Helens

PMG PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - The Columbia Theater in St. Helens is expected to undergo a number of repairs and renovations thanks to grant funding. The theater was recently selected for some federal grant funds that will help pay for a replacement marquee. The Columbia Theater is slated to receive another installment of grant funding to help pay for a full replacement of its historic marquee.

The movie theater in St. Helens, which was originally built in 1928, according to historic records, is expected to undergo a series of repairs and renovations, many made possible by grant funding.

Most recently, the theater received a grant of $11,500 from the Federal Historic Preservation fund.

In May, the Columbia Theater was awarded $200,000 through the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant Program, which Leah Tillotson, who co-owns the theater with her husband, Lance, had applied for with sponsorship from St. Helens Economic Development Corporation.

Funding from that grant is expected to help pay for a variety of repairs and renovations inside the theater, but one of the big ticket items will be the building's signature marquee.

A replacement marquee, which will be brand new but will have a similar design and aesthetic, will cost close to $60,000.

To help push the renovation grant money further, Tillotson also pursued other grant funding opportunities so the money could be used as matching funds, which are often a grant allocation requirement.

Tillotson had applied for a $20,000 grant from the Preserving Oregon Heritage program and applied for an $11,500 grant from the Federal Historic Preservation fund with sponsorship from the city of St. Helens. In Oregon, the federal program is administered by the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office.

While Tillotson was not selected for the $20,000 grant, she was chosen for the $11,500 grant.

"So, it's not the 20K we were hoping for, but it is definitely an amount that will help get the new marquee up on there," Tillotson said.

On Friday, Sept. 6, a 30-day public comment period opened on the grant.

Currently, members of the public can make comments or gain more information about the project online.

Tillotson explained that while plans for repairs are ready, and the sign producers are "ready to rock," it will take time before the money is made available from all of the grants for the repair work to begin.

"We're ready on our end and we're waiting patiently," Tillotson said.


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