Grand Theater gets state, trust funding

STEUBENVILLE – Scott Dressel started looking for an Ohio heating and air conditioning contractor as soon as he heard the Ohio House of Representatives and the Senate had approved $140,000 for the Grand Theater restoration project.

“I hope to get the heating and air conditioning installed this summer in the main theater. It will make quite a difference and make future work in the theater a little easier,” said Dressel, president of the board of directors of the Grand Theater for the Performing Arts Restoration Project.

Dressel had requested $900,000 request to fund restoration of the stage, flyloft and HVAC for the theater as well as the dressing rooms.

“I am very happy to receive the amount approved in the state capital budget and thank state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, and state Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, for their efforts to secure the funds. We will now proceed with finding an Ohio contractor to do the work,” said Dressel.

“I am glad the Grand Theater is receiving the money. I believe the restoration work will not only help the downtown business community, but will also see jobs associated with the project,” Cera noted.

“I wanted to make sure our local cultural projects were included in the capital budget and I am pleased we were able to secure funding for the Grand Theater. The capital budget focuses on education and work investment as well arts and cultural projects. The Grand Theater was one of the projects in Eastern Ohio that I wanted to see included. The theater restoration project was a top priority for me in our Columbus discussions,” said Gentile.

Dressel said he is preparing to work on the front exterior of the 90-year-old theater that faces South Fourth Street.

“We were notified that we have been awarded $20,00 from the PNC Charitable Trust. That will allow us to start working on the third floor windows and repointing the brick facade. We removed the white paint from the brick wall and now I want to complete the work this summer,” explained Dressel.

“What you now see is the original brick that was used by the Griesinger family more than 130 years ago when they built the structures that served as their home and several businesses,” Dressel said.

“The paint came off pretty easily. After the power washing was done, we let the wall be washed by the rain and winter snow and are returning to the exterior wall to do some pointing where mortar is needed. Maybe 5 percent of the brick wall needs pointed. The quality of the original brick wall is pretty remarkable,” continued Dressel.

“We will have to rent a Genie manlift, which costs $500 a day. That eats into our funding quickly. I wish we had our own or someone would donate a manlift for us to use. We could also use it inside the theater when we are working on the ceiling and walls,” commented Dressel.

“We hope to find funding for the theater sign and marquee. Once that is done, the front of the theater will be nearly complete. We are slowly bringing the historical look back to this section of our downtown. We have a great history in downtown Steubenville and I am seeing a lot of people stop by today to check out our work and to talk about the downtown of their youth. The front of the theater looks more authentic with the original brick wall,” Dressel said.

“Our next big project under consideration is renovating one of the two ball rooms. That will allow us to hold small events inside of the building,” he added.

“It has been a lot of work so far, but every year we raise more funds for the project. That is encouraging. We are now approaching the point where we will need large chunks of money in order to move the work forward on the theater ceiling and interior walls. It is a challenge, but this has been a good week. If we can keep getting funding every year, the work will go faster,” stated Dressel.

“We also added several new members to our board of directors including Mike Welker, and David Schaeffer of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Rob Mendoza from Deloitte Tax in Pittsburgh, Steubenville City Manager Tim Boland and Costas Connors, a student at the University of Pittsburgh. All will be helping out with moving the Grand Theater project forward. We will be forming some official internships with Franciscan University to help us get some things done, and will be forming an official finance committee to work on an overall tax credit and donation plan,” remarked Dressel.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com.)