It was a long time coming -- a very long time coming -- but it appears as if the old Virginia theater is about to make a comeback worthy of a Hollywood script.
The Virginia was all but dead. It was left in ruins -- literally. And many unsuccessful efforts to revive the landmark over the years have fallen way short of the mark.
But last week, Somerset City Council approved a financing ordinance that would bankroll improvements for the Virginia, seeing the building reborn into a live entertainment and event space.
If you're not necessarily a fan of the old theater, and are more concerned about how the project will be funded, fear not. In the initial stage of bringing the Virginia back to life, Somerset City Council will refinance a set of general obligation bonds, around $7 million worth, that would save the city around $800,000 in interest.
Then, the city will use an additional $4 million to fund new projects, including the financing of a new firetruck, making state-mandated improvements to the wastewater plant, and other capital projects. Those are all great ways to spend money, but revitalizing the Virginia is definitely the most eye-catching of all the projects.
Because the Virginia's rebirth has been discussed for so long. But up to this point, all of the attempts have missed the mark. The project is definitely costly -- around $2 million. And several city councilors had reservations because of that hefty price tag.
But the project goes along with the city's emphasis on fortifying the downtown area -- an area which went ignored for years.
"To me, the Virginia has always been the heart of the city," said John Alexander, a longtime proponent of resurrecting the Virginia. "It's certainly my favorite spot in Somerset. My love of the movies makes me appreciate the cinema for what it was, and my love of live theater makes me hopeful for what it can be."
According to Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, the plan is to have the Virginia project completed in time for the building's 100th anniversary in 2022.
The old complaint was "There's nothing to do in Downtown Somerset."
Now we're seeing thriving businesses. And, by this time next year, you'll be able to shop at the Farmer's Market, have a great dinner at the Charred Oak and see a live show at the Virginia.
How cool is that?
THE COMMONWEALTH JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD is made up of Mark Walker, Publisher; Jeff Neal, Editor; Steve Cornelius, Sports Editor; Mary Ann Flynn, Advertising; Shirley Randall, Production; and Christopher Harris, Staff Writer.