Ashlanders offer key support to Holly Theatre restoration

In this shot from 2021, the Holly Theatre was all dressed up for some outdoor holiday music performances under the marquee. Restoration of the iconic venue is resuming this year.
December 21, 2022

Historic Medford landmark renewal is a project of the JPR Foundation

By Jim Flint for Ashland.news

It was just before COVID-19 hit when Ken Silverman, owner of iconic Ashland retail business Nimbus, decided it was time to retire.

But not to a rocking chair.

Silverman is probably as busy as he ever was, serving as president of the JPR Foundation, which just announced that restoration of the historic Holly Theatre in downtown Medford has resumed.

After a two-year shutdown due to the pandemic, the foundation board has chosen Outlier Construction of Medford as the new general contractor for the current phase of the Holly restoration.

“Outlier is among the most respected construction firms in the valley,” Silverman said. “They have the expertise and track record to deliver the next major phase on time and on budget. We couldn’t be happier to have them on board.”

With the project on its final glide path, it promises to be one of the most significant downtown revitalization efforts in many years.

In the first phases of the project, about 40% of the restoration was completed, including the Sixth Street façade with the iconic blade and marquee, the first- and second-floor lobbies, and the box office areas. Some money also went toward repairing water damage and cleaning up graffiti.

A key focus over the next few months is installation of an elevator, allowing the auditorium and meeting areas to be fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Other elements will include remaining structural and seismic work, a new roof, prepping the auditorium for finish details, expanding the dressing room areas, and replacing the stage floor and fly loft. This phase is expected to take four to six months.

JPR Live! has resumed restoration of Medford’s Holly Theatre. The large indoor auditorium will be prepped for finish details in this phase. With 1,025 seats, the Holly is the largest indoor theater in Southern Oregon. 

The Holly is unique in many ways. When it’s finished, the 1,025-seat auditorium will be one of the largest indoor theaters on the West Coast with a continuous “rake” — a balcony-free sweep of seats from front to back. Such a feature is a valuable asset, ensuring that sound travels accurately from the stage to the last row at the fourth-floor level.

Restoration of the Holly has been underway since 2012 and now boasts over 3,000 donors to the project.

George Kramer and Paul Westhelle are two other Ashland men who have been heavily involved in the project.

Kramer is the Holly’s historic preservation consultant. He also has been involved in several other theater restoration projects — the Alger Community Theater in Lakeview, the Liberty Theater in North Bend, the Egyptian Theatre in Coos Bay and the historic Cascade Theatre in Redding. The Cascade has been owned and operated since 2004 by Jefferson Live!, the JPR Foundation subsidiary which also owns the Holly.

Westhelle, JPR Executive Director and ex-officio member of the foundation board, is an advisor on construction for the Holly, bringing the expertise he gained while rebuilding the Cascade Theatre.

Another Ashland connection is Tiffany Maude, Holly Theatre Operations Manager.

Funding for the current phase is largely being provided by the Jeff and Tina Blum family through a low-interest $3 million loan. In addition, the Holly is qualified to secure $1.8 million in historic tax credit funding.

The Holly recently received a $250,000 grant from the City of Medford. But even though these amounts will get the restoration much closer to completion, about $2.5 million in additional funding will be needed for the final phase.

The Holly, on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by renowned local architect Frank C. Clark in a Spanish Colonial Revival style. When it opened in 1930, it was the gem of downtown Medford with its grand neon blade sign, elaborate marquee and lavish furnishings.

The JPR Foundation purchased the facility in 2011 and began fundraising efforts immediately for the restoration. The goal was to provide the functionality of a modern theater while preserving the heritage and style elements of the iconic venue.

The Holly’s seating of 1,025 compares to the outdoor Elizabethan Theatre’s 1,190 and the Craterian Theater’s 732.

With its large capacity, the Holly hopes to attract acts and shows that bypass Medford because of a need for a larger indoor space.

The Holly will host the same kinds of shows that play at its sister theater in Redding, in addition to offering high-definition cinema events and providing space for local performing arts organizations. A host of civic and corporate events also are likely to be in the mix.

For more information or to make a contribution, call 541-772-3797 or visit hollytheatre.org.

Reach writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

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