Dixie Theater renovation means show will go on in Staunton
Teens got their first jobs and couples experienced their first kisses at the former Dixie Theater in downtown Staunton.
Now the vacant building, which opened in 1913 at 125 E. Beverley St., is a step closer to becoming a community cultural center, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the state Industrial Revitalization Fund, which encourages economic development through the renovation of vacant and derelict structures.
Staunton received the funding in August on behalf of the nonprofit Arcadia Project, which formed in 2017 to revamp the building into a theater with event space, classrooms and a small café.
“It’s definitely going to be a vibrant and wonderful addition to our community, not only for locals but also visitors downtown,” says Greg Beam, executive director of the Staunton Downtown Development Association, which is promoting Arcadia’s fundraising events and wrote a recommendation letter for its grant application.
Arcadia’s board was set to begin advertising for a contractor in late October for the $3 million renovation, which is expected to begin in early 2024 and be completed by early 2025. Two-thirds of the cost has been raised so far in money and in-kind donations, including a $30,000 in-kind donation of surround-sound movie theater equipment from George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. The rest will be in hand by opening day, says Executive Director Pamela Wagner.
Board members reached out to the community to determine the activities people wanted to see offered in the building, which closed in 2014.
“We envision this place to be a building that will hold programing relevant to everyone’s life,” says Vice President Abena Foreman-Trice.
One of the theater’s two auditoriums will be converted into a 90-seat theater and lecture hall that can host themed film festivals, including the Music at the Movies series the nonprofit has been hosting with Visulite Cinemas in Staunton, says Arcadia President Tom Wagner. The other auditorium will hold up to 260 people for conferences and events.
When open, the theater will likely employ five to eight people, says Pamela Wagner.
“From the city’s perspective, a project like this generating activity in our downtown area is fantastic,” says Amanda DiMeo, Staunton’s economic development specialist. “The Arcadia Project is something the community is excited about, and we see it as a positive to have a longtime vacant building restored and occupied with ample opportunity for growth and engagement.”