Donations still needed to complete restoration of historic Rees, but organizers optimistic

The Rees Theater’s marquee has played a vital role in bringing attention to restoration efforts to save the building (make sure to scroll through all three photos).An artist’s rendering of the eventual future interior of the Rees Theater.The interior of the gutted Rees Theater in downtown Plymouth. Organizers hope to have refurbishing efforts complete by early summer 2020 to coincide with the venue’s 80th anniversary.
By: 
Shawn McGrath
Staff Writer

Organizers behind the effort to save, refurbish and repurpose the Rees Theater in downtown Plymouth said they are grateful for the community’s support for the project, but fundraising efforts continue.

“Ground support for the Rees Theater Project has swollen to date with over 350 individuals, organizations, businesses and corporations who have provided a combination of cash donations, pledges of support both financially and of services or materials,” said Randy Danielson, who is Rees Project co-chair with Donna Pontius.

A list of contributors and the project details can be found on the organizers’ website, www.reesproject.com.

Funds from the individual contributors join grants from the Marshall County Community Foundation, Regional Cities Initiative and the Plymouth Redevelopment Commission, Danielson said.

The theater was included in the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation’s application for the Indiana Stellar Communities Program, he said.

In late January, the Plymouth Common Council unanimously voted to continue support of the theater renovations by sponsoring an application with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

“There has been an enormous commitment of volunteer hours by The Rees Project Committee which began this journey in December 2016,” Danielson said in a statement.

In early 2017, organizers enrolled the Rees in The League of Historic American Theatres.

“While attending the first conference in Fort Wayne it was ingrained in those attending not to lose hope in initiating a restoration effort and moving it to completion,” Danielson. “This was said to be a five-to-10-year effort in igniting the interest, seeking the supporters and building the relationships necessary to see this through to completion.”

Danielson attended the conference with his wife, Eleanor, and architect/committee member Brent Martin.

“We were recognized for the instant momentum of community support for this project,” Martin said in a statement. “Interest in reviving The Rees has continued from the day of its closing on Dec. 22, 2009, and therefore placed us ahead of the game.

“All attendees were cautioned to complete the exterior and marquee repairs last so interest in the project would remain peeked,” Martin continued. “Our committee decided that Plymouth and our downtown retail neighbors needed this boost and began to imagine the possibilities this venue can provide the area in terms of entertainment and economic development.”

If anything, the exterior restoration and marquee work has helped keep the project in the spotlight, Danielson said.

“Without a doubt, the skillful restoration of the masonry facade and illumination of the marquee has added greatly to the downtown evening streetscape and has provided countless messages of support and celebration, which is what this venue is all about – progressing a community,” he said.

Danielson said the theater’s 2019 capital campaign is underway, which organizers are calling ACT II ‘Let’s finish the Show!’

He said The Rees Project is growing nearer to its goal of raising $3.46 million, which includes a figure of $2.86 million to complete phases two and three and continue to fund an endowment to ensure the venue’s viability.

The money is being held with the Marshall County Community Foundation in a non-permanent fund for construction and a permanent fund for sustainability.

“We are closing the gap on the $850,000 still needed to complete the interior build out in an aggressive effort to re-open the facility in 2020, the 80th anniversary year of The Rees,” Pontius said.

De-construction continued through the fall and winter, stripping the interior of its modern and historic surfaces in order to reveal the basic structure, Danielson said.

“Every effort was made to recycle materials – even the ‘silver screen’. Phase two will correct known foundation and masonry problems in the 1939 addition to the original 1865 structure along with additional support for the floor system and balcony,” he said via email. ”This phase will also include insulating the roof deck and new protective membrane. When this phase is complete in the spring, the theater will be structurally sound and ready for interior finishes that will reflect its original art deco design. Just like in 1940, attention will be given to every detail.”

Danielson said organizers are trying to make the environmental friendly, including researching whether the structure can be in line with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

“A great deal of thought and research is happening at this time in order to create a LEED-driven space in a green and sustainable manner,” he said. ”This concern for efficiency, which is deeply important to the Rees Project Committee, leads to sustainability and provides for a healthier space. At this time, geothermal is being considered for the HVAC systems for the front-of-house spaces that will be tempered for daily use as well as a rooftop solar array to generate power.”

When finished, Danielson said, the theater will be a gathering place for the presentation of film and the promotion of artistic, educational and cultural events as well as offer a venue to celebrate life and community milestones.

“The Rees Theater is positioned as an anchor for continued downtown revitalization and a compliment to an arts district that includes The Marshall County Crossroads Museum, Heartland Artist Gallery, performance spaces in Opie’s, The Wild Rose Moon and the amphitheater at nearby River Park Square,” Danielson said. “These are bordered by the Marshall County Tourism Bureau, the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce and Plymouth City Hall. Pride in Plymouth and its historic past can be seen in the careful attention to restored facades like the grandeur of the former Montgomery Ward retail store now home to The Pilot News. (Plymouth is home to the first Montgomery Ward retail outlet).

“Together we can return the Rees for the enjoyment of generations to come.”

Donations still needed to complete restoration of historic movie palace
Donations for the Rees Theater can still be made online through the Marshall County Community Foundation at www.marshallcountygives.org or, for project details and specific donor levels, visit www.reesproject.com, according to organizers.

Pledge forms are available at the Marshall County Community Foundation, Marshall County Historical Museum, Bowen Printing or by calling 574-2862391.

The overall goal is to raise a total of $3.46 million to rehabilitate the theater.

Of that amount, $600,000 will go into an endowment to support the theater’s continued operation.

The next community fundraising event, The Rees Screen Test, which will be a night of trivia and fun, will be April 25. Organizers said more details will be released soon.

Organizers hope to have all work completed by spring or early summer 2020 to coincide with the theater’s 80th anniversary.