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Capitol Theatre plans proceed even without tax credits

Published October 19, 2012 7:37 am

Financing • SL County, Ballet West revise approach to theater's renovations.
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Plans to renovate the Capitol Theatre and to build a Center for Dance on its west side counted heavily on receipt of $6 million in federal tax credits to round out financing for the $33.4 million arts center.

But the federal money did not come through — at least not this year.

Down but not defeated, Salt Lake County and its partners at Ballet West have devised an alternate approach to continuing the project, one that expects to corral those "New Market Tax Credits" in the next federal funding cycle — if Congress extends the program later this year.

"We have every reason to feel optimistic," Erin Litvack, county community services director, told the County Council on Tuesday. "Our [tax credit] application is at the head of the queue, lined up for the allocation in 2013. Every indicator makes us believe that is possible."

The tax credits, part of an IRS program to help banks and corporations make investments in local communities in lieu of paying federal taxes, were the final piece of financing needed to pay for the renovation/expansion, which also includes equal contributions of $13.4 million by the county and Ballet West.

Litvack said the Capitol Theatre application was strong, but it was tardy in securing required levels of funding from the county and its private partner. "We were a little late having cash in hand and that's why we got farther back in the queue," she added. "It was a matter of fundraising in a difficult economy."

Without those tax credits, the county and Ballet West regrouped and came up with a new plan to proceed.

Since the theater already has been scheduled for closure between June and December 2013, and it's too late now to try booking anything there during that span, the partners want to go ahead with the renovation work in the 1913-vintage theater itself.

Litvack said initial work will focus on expanding the theater lobby by eliminating the arcade, rearranging a patron services area, upgrading the building's heating and air conditioning system, raising the theater stage and redoing the seat cushions.

By the time that's done for "The Nutcracker" in December of 2013, the county and Ballet West expect to have landed the desired tax credits. Those funds then could be applied to building Ballet West's long anticipated Jessie Eccles Quinney Center for Dance.

The five-story structure will house the ballet troupe as well as a dance academy for up to 600 dance students.

"So it's not a major blow, but something we have to work around," summarized County Councilman Jim Bradley, encouraging his colleagues to support the revised construction timetable and the partnership. "Let's not forget the contributions of Ballet West. It would be shortsighted of us to throw in the towel now."

Shari Quinney, chairwoman of Ballet West's capital campaign for the project, said county officials will not be disappointed going forward.

She said she "threw a hissy fit" when young architects initially produced drawings of a contemporary structure for the new dance center that was inconsistent with the century-old theater's classic design.

The drawings were changed, Quinney said, adding that now "it's elegant. It's gorgeous. It will be a beautiful facility."


Twitter: @sltribmikeg County officials, Ballet West waiting for federal funding

Renovations to the historical Capitol Theatre will begin in June, but Salt Lake County officials and Ballet West are still waiting for federal assistance that could be applied to building a Center for Dance adjacent to it.






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