Historic Vista Theater to develop 'much-needed' business plan

NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WLUC) - When it first opened in 1926, Vista Theater was an integral part of downtown Negaunee. The Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council Advisory Board is looking forward to a time when the building can, once again, become the hub of Iron Street.

The PAAC Board of Directors announced Friday morning, in cooperation with the Negaunee City Council, a potential turning point for the organization and the building.

Thanks to a recent $3,000 grant award from the Greater Ishpeming Negaunee Chamber of Commerce and a $7,000 contribution from the City of Negaunee, PAAC will procure the services of historic theater expert Thomas Gerdom to create a much-needed business plan.
The Negaunee City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of the theatre at its Nov. 8 regular meeting.

Negaunee City Manager Nate Heffron said the plan could be a turning point for the building and the non-profit organization by highlighting needed repairs to the interior and exterior of the Vista as well as giving PAAC viable options to pay for the repairs and sustain the organization itself.

“I believe that this is a worthy cause and a public service to the community,” Heffron told the council. This plan that (Mr. Gerndom) will be putting together will be worth every dollar that we put into it. It will help stabilize this organization like it’s never been stabilized before. Once we get this building fixed up it will be the shiniest jewel in town.”
Negaunee Mayor Don Gladwell said while the organization has struggled in the past, he is optimistic about the future of the organization.

“It’s one of our anchors to bring people downtown They’ve got a new board in place. They’ve struggled over the last couple of years, these board members that are there now are workers. They are all about the community. They want to move forward with this new business plan and our goal, obviously is to work with them,” Gladwell said.

Gerdom, who has performed similar services for theaters all over Michigan, will conduct an analysis of the Vista’s relationships and potential uses; a market identification and analysis; potential ownership and management structures; and an analytical financial package including projected operating costs and funding options.

“We are very excited to work with Mr. Gerdom,” PAAC President Lex Exworthy said. “And we are very appreciative of our supporters, GINCC and the City of Negaunee for making this possible. So many of the people I spoke to have told me how much they care about the Vista Theater - How much they care about seeing downtown Negaunee succeed, and how much they feel the Vista Theater is tied into that.”

Gerdom expects the report to be completed in the next 12 weeks.
Negaunee City Manager Nate Heffron said the restoration of the historic building could mean great things for its downtown neighbors.

“The Vista will serve as an attraction to the downtown that helps to augment other businesses.” Heffron said. “(This) feasabilty study will allow (PAAC) to determine what actions are needed to restore the theater. This will further the economic goals of our community and downtown and bring them solvent to make such repairs that are necessary.”

The PAAC Board understands, Lexworthy said, that the real work will begin once the Gerdom’s study is completed.

“We know that this is only the beginning, a blueprint,” Lexworthy said. “But knowing where we stand and what our funding options are will be invaluable to the future of the organization and the building.”

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