‘Any and all efforts’ Vista board plans to save theater

North Central UP

UPDATE:

NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) — The Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council membership voted unanimously on Monday to allow the board to go forward with any and all efforts up to and including negotiating a possible sale of the building to a third party of the historic Vista Theater.

The Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council has not received any formal offers to purchase the Vista, but if an offer is received and approved by the board, the membership still would have the right of refusal, said PAAC Advisory Board Interim President Rusty Bowers.

“Right now we are focused on raising money to remove the debris, shore up the walls, and cap the stage house and lobby portions of the building to protect them from the elements,” Bowers said. “Public safety is our primary concern, and we will continue our fundraising efforts to get that done.”

Bowers said the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council has been working with a contractor who is investigating the best way to remove the debris from the theater then begin the process of shoring up the wall.

A local roofing contractor also informed the organization that they will adjust the labor cost and some of the materials can be purchased at a reduced cost.

In 11 days, the PAAC GoFundMe has raised nearly $20,000 for the needed repairs, which are expected to cost up to $100,000. The roof, which is expected to cost up to $200,000 to complete is expected to be started in the spring of 2021.

“We are very grateful for the support of the community,” Bowers said. “We have had hundreds of people donate, and more have reached out to offer assistance with our fundraising efforts.”

During Monday’s meeting, PAAC membership was also informed that Nate Heffron, Negaunee’s City Manager had submitted his resignation from the advisory board. The council plans to fill Heffron’s seat.

In a letter to the board, Heffron noted his obligations to the city of Negaunee created a conflict of interest following the August 26 roof collapse.

Bowers said members of the PAAC Advisory Board are grateful for Heffron’s service to date and respect the difficult decision to step down from his position as president.

“Nate Heffron brought a lot of energy to the board,” Bowers said. “He was a great addition to the organization. And we look forward to continuing to work with him in his capacity as city manager as we work toward the future of the Vista Theater and the organization itself. He has always been an advocate for our organization.”

Bowers said the backing of the Marquette County community will continue to be critical as PAAC looks to raise funds.

“We are asking anyone who can donate to our GoFundMe to do so,” Bowers said. “And if you can’t donate, please share our cause as much as you can. We will also be launching other ways to donate including a large can drive. We are coming at this from all angles and reaching out in a variety of ways. Nothing is too big and nothing is too small, everything helps.”

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Original (August 26):

NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) — The Vista Theater Advisory Board, formally known as the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council, will work with it’s membership and community partners in an effort to save the historic building on Iron Street in Negaunee.

The action is necessary following a roof truss collapse early Wednesday morning that affected the center of the structure over the auditorium It is thought that the collapse came due to a roof-drain failure during an extremely heavy rain.

“We are all deeply saddened by this,” said Board Vice President Diane Darlington.

“We hope to have a solution as soon as possible so the good work and progress started by dedicated volunteers can continue. We ask for the public’s patience and to respect the safety protocols that have been put in place by the city while the details are worked out.”

Drone photos taken Tuesday have shown that the roof over the stage, which was repaired in 2018, and the roof over the iconic lobby and entryway appear intact.

In the next several days, a historic preservation architect is expected to conduct a structural inspection to first determine whether the building can be saved, and what steps need to take place to ensure public safety during the process.

Tens of thousands of dollars were spent repairing the areas of the building that were thought to be of the most critical need in the last several years.

The Vista board had also been working with a historic theater expert to come up with a plan that would keep the theater running for years to come. One of the cornerstones of that plan was the restoration of the historic building.

“Every cent we collected for donations and grants for roof repairs was spent on roof repairs,” said board treasurer Lex Exworthy.

“In addition to a new roof over the Vista stage, CUPPAD (Central Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development) helped us put a new roof and back wall on the annex building. The board, with the help of dedicated volunteers and partners had begun the painstaking task of organizing both buildings for an anticipated renovation.”

Members of the board have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of public support to save the building. The process, Darlington said, could take months or years, but it is possible.

“With the right partners, donations and sweat equity, I firmly believe that we can save this historic building. Many people in Negaunee still remember attending movies in this building. And it has a
50-year legacy in community arts beyond that. We want to see it saved. Rest assured that we are working behind the scenes to get that done.”

Any updates will be provided on the Historic Vista Theater Facebook page, or on the Vista’s webpage. Efforts are currently underway to make contact with the group’s membership and arrange a meeting on Monday, September 14, to present options for them to vote on.

Inquiries may be sent to negauneevista@gmail.com.

Original:

NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) — Early Wednesday morning, a portion of the roof at the Historic Vista Theater collapsed causing severe damage to the building.

The ceiling collapsed on top of the seating right in front of the stage, covering the entire inside with debris.

The building contractor was on scene when Local 3 arrived Wednesday morning.

The City of Negaunee is met Wednesday to discuss what to do moving forward with the Vista, along with the decision to of temporarily close portions of Iron and Jackson streets.

City Manager and President of the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council, Nate Heffron says they aren’t seeing any exterior damage or walls being caved into the building. Building assessments are being done to determine what can be saved and what can feasibly be done to recover from this.

“The portion that collapsed we had just had re-done about 15 years ago so it was still under warranty but as far as we’re understanding there is no failed position of the roof as it pertains to the drains and that’s what we think happened,” said Heffron. “The drains are super old they either got clogged up, they could have got deteriorated, it could be a number of issues we can’t tell. They’re gone now obviously and and whatever happened to prevent that those drains from taking that water from the heavy rains we had this morning, it didn’t take it so what happened was that water pooled up. That weight of that water on the roof caused it to collapse.”

Heffron says he is sure the community will want to save this but the issue will come down to dollars. PAAC has been raising money for years in efforts to restore the building. They are having an emergency meeting Wednesday night to discuss what they know and what they do with what they know to move forward.

“It certainly is disheartening,” said Heffron. “The city has been working hard, businesses have been working hard and all of its volunteers for many years to preserve this building and its organization to carry it forward and try to preserve it to some extent. And now, we’re in a position where we have to take a hard long look at this community and determine is that a public good we want to continue to have.”

People interested in making a donation to the Historic Vista Theater can click here.

The Historic Vista Theater provided an update on Facebook this afternoon:

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