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CURTAINS: Historic theater faced with likely demolition

The historic Fox Theater in Stevens Point on Aug. 20. Attempts to save the historic downtown theater appear to be at an end now that a nonprofit organization is saying it can't meet the city's timeline for renovations. The Fox Theater’s history traces to 1894, when it was opened as the Grand Opera House. (Rob Mentzer/Wisconsin Public Radio via AP)

The historic Fox Theater in Stevens Point on Aug. 20. Attempts to save the historic downtown theater appear to have reached on end now that a nonprofit organization is saying it can’t meet the city’s timeline for renovations. The Fox Theater dates to 1894, when it was opened as the Grand Opera House. (Rob Mentzer/Wisconsin Public Radio via AP)

STEVENS POINT (AP) — Attempts to save a historic theater in downtown Stevens Point appear to have reached an end now that officials at a nonprofit organization say they can’t meet the city’s timeline for renovations.

The organization CREATE Portage County has been running a $3.5 million campaign to turn the vacant Fox Theater into a makerspace and arts center. But the organization recently said it could not meet the renovation requirements and that demolition “appears inevitable at this point.”

The announcement comes after months of negotiations between the group and the city, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. In July, a city inspector issued an order to raze the century-old building.

The city eventually granted CREATE an extension on its three-month raze order. Last month, the Stevens Point City Council voted to contribute as much as $250,000 to the renovation. Greg Wright, CREATE executive director, said then that the money would allow the organization to make needed structural repairs.

More than $1.3 million has been pledged to the project. But contractors could not meet city deadlines for mid-December, said both Wright and Bill Schierl, board president and founder of CREATE.

Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza said the central Wisconsin city is losing one of its best-known buildings.

“I know there is a very nostalgic connection to a lot of people,” Wiza said. “It has been part of our downtown for many generations, and it’s sad that we’re going to have to see it go.”

But Wiza said the building is a safety hazard. Some of its shingles, for instance, have fallen on nearby properties. City engineers now consider it too risky to keep standing through the winter. Demolition is expected to begin in coming weeks.

The Fox Theater’s history traces to 1894, when it was opened as the Grand Opera House and featured vaudeville perfomances. The building has been vacant since the mid-1980s.

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