Thursday, April 3, 2014

Crump Theatre Findings Lead To Closing Of Theatre

photo © 2013, David Sechrest

On October 1, 2013, my book, Columbus Indiana's Historic Crump Theatre, was released. I held the Book Signing Party at the Crump Theatre. My intent at the time was to try and time the release of the book to the release of the Crump Theatre feasibility study then being conducted by Jones & Phillips Associates, Lafayette, Indiana. The firm had been hired by the Columbus Indiana Redevelopment Commission in May, 2013, to do a thorough study of the 124 year old opera house/movie theater.

As it turns out, my timing was off by about five months. Originally, Jones & Phillips announced their results would be ready for a public forum "by the end of the year." (2013). But something happened during that time that changed everything, and what I believe to have caused the delay.

Sears, which has held a prominent location in downtown Columbus since the 1970s, announced they were closing their doors. They would not be renewing their lease.

(photo, courtesy of Google maps)

It didn't take long before speculation began as to what could fill up this space. One of the ideas being tossed about is a performing arts venue. In 2013, the Indiana Arts Commission designated a section of downtown Columbus, Indiana a Cultural Arts District. This is quite an achievement for the city, considering very few cities in Indiana have such recognition. This also ties in with Mayor Kristen Brown's Columbus Arts District Strategic Plan.

The Sears announcement is a game changer. The Columbus Capital Foundation, owner of the Sears property and also owner of the Crump Theatre, asked Jones and Phillips to look at the Sears location as a possible performing arts venue, and to incorporate the Sears study with the Crump feasibility report.

Crump interior photo, © 2013, Gary Scroggins Photography, Columbus, Indiana

On Monday, March 24, 2014, the results of the Jones & Phillips study were given at a special meeting of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission. Van and Linda Phillips offered their presentation and findings to a crowded room. Not only did Jones and Phillips look at renovating the Crump Theatre, but they also provided several different scenarios:

1) Renovate the existing Crump Theatre with a 300 to 450 seat, raked floor.
2) Renovate YES Cinema with a 320 fixed flat floor.
3) Renovate YES Cinema to a 400 seat theater.
4) Demolish the Crump and build a new 1,000 seat theater at the present location.
5) Demolish the Crump and build a new 1,200 seat theater at the present location.
6) Build a new performing arts center at the Sears location.
7) Build a new Convention Center on the Sears site, and include a performing arts venue where Sears Automotive was.

 Crump interior photo, © 2013, Gary Scroggins Photography, Columbus, Indiana

In addition to the multiple proposals, Van Phillips also stressed that the Crump Theatre is in violation of several code ordinances, and the theater should not be reopened until the corrections have been made.

As a result, Columbus Fire Chief Dave Allmon will not allow the Crump to reopen. His reasons are:

1) Stage floor does not meet current structural codes.
2) The building does not meet current seismic code.
3) The mechanical room is not safe for people or equipment.
4) The building does not meet ADA compliance.

Crump Theater stage photo, © 2013, Gary Scroggins Photography, Columbus, Indiana

While the Crump Theatre has not been utilized for any major types of entertainment over the past 15 years (two exceptions: a John Mellencamp performance in 2008, and a fundraiser event in 2002), it did provide a niche by hosting small music shows hosted by local and regional musicians. It has also been rented quite extensively by paranormal groups over the past 7 years.

With the Fire Chief's announcement, the Columbus Capital Foundation may look into selling the Crump. Whether any agreement can be reached to reopen the theater in its current state is questionable.

I will be writing more about the historical importance of the Crump Theatre later. At the moment, however, there is a lot of information to digest.

I have provided pertinent links below so you can watch/see/hear/read along with Jones & Phillips presentation.

There is to be another meeting of the Redevelopment Commission regarding the Crump on April 24, 2014. I will post info about that meeting once that date gets closer.

Link to the video stream from the Redevelopment Commission meeting:

If you care to follow along with Van and Linda Phillips' PDF presentation, click here for the PDF file:

Here is a link to the entire 132 page report (PDF):

Lastly, here is a link to their Executive Summary:

Link to the news of the Crump being closed up by the Fire Chief:

Analysis of the Crump Feasibility Report
Analysis of the Crump Feasibility Report
Analysis of the Crump Feasibility Report