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File | The Journal Gazette
2012 interior view of a room in the Indiana Hotel.

Embassy gets $2 million renovation grant

Statement issued Wednesday by the theater:

Fort Wayne, Ind. – The Embassy Theatre Foundation announced that the Goldstine Foundation has granted $2 million to the nonprofit theater as the lead gift to “A Vision for the Embassy” capital project.

The Embassy will use this significant gift toward a $10 million campaign to renovate four floors of the former Indiana Hotel and other undeveloped areas of the building. These areas have sat unused for more than 40 years. The plan calls for a two-story-high ballroom and rooftop garden, studio and rehearsal space, classrooms, history center and improved public access and concessions areas.

The Goldstine Foundation was established by the late Robert Goldstine, who was a key figure in saving the Embassy Theatre from demolition in the early 1970s. Through Goldstine’s leadership, the community raised $250,000 to purchase the building for the nonprofit organization, which continues to operate it today. The Goldstine Foundation, since its formation, has generously supported the Embassy with annual grants for maintenance and restoration work. Robert Goldstine served as president of the Embassy’s board of directors for its first 20 years and loved playing the historic and rare Grande Page Theater Pipe Organ.

“Bob had a love for downtown, for redevelopment and for the Embassy,” said Stephen Wesner, Goldstine Foundation board president. “This gift serves as a catalyst for the Vision campaign and as an annuity for future Embassy operations.”

The Embassy’s board and staff have spent several years researching best uses of the building, spurred by the facility’s 2009 third-floor renovation into a public corridor between the Courtyard by Marriott sky bridge and the Grand Wayne Center sky bridge.

“Renewed interest in downtown redevelopment provided the Embassy with an opportunity to move forward with plans that will enhance our current business model – we rent the building for shows and special events – and expand our capacity,” said Marla Peters, board of directors president. “Due to our busy schedule and limited rental spaces, we currently turn away many public and private events. This plan allows us to stick to our successful business model and gives us more spaces for the community.”

Upon receiving the Goldstine Foundation’s lead gift, the Embassy formed a campaign cabinet that began fundraising last summer. To date, nearly $3.7 million is committed to the Vision campaign.

“We conducted focus groups and completed an economic impact study and a feasibility study,” said Carolyn Brody, campaign co-chair and Embassy board member. “This plan generated a great deal of support from community leaders and downtown neighbors, with the feedback to us that this will be the best use of the entire building for decades to come.”

Added Gary Wasson, campaign co-chair, “This project also has to be self-sustaining, because we must be able to financially support what we do with and within the historic building. We thoroughly reviewed the business plan and, after very careful and conservative estimating, the numbers show the renovation generates revenues for the organization beginning in year one.”

The organization’s goal is to obtain at least $6 million in gifts and pledges by Dec. 31, 2013. The organization also is researching other funding sources, such as tax credits and financing. A building task force is currently reviewing proposals for architectural and construction services. “If fundraising continues at its current pace,” Brody said, “we could begin renovations in June 2014.”

Built in 1928, the historic Embassy Theatre is a nonprofit organization that features national productions from the Broadway stage, concerts of all musical formats, cinema, educational programming and a continued commitment to young people. For more information, visit www.fwembassytheatre.org.

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