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Lorravin872003 commented about Hippodrome Theatre on Nov 4, 2009 at 8:07 am

Here is your new information form the Local new of Richmond VA.
The long-awaited revival of the Hippodrome Theater in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood could begin soon, with a $600,000 boost from Richmond taxpayers.

The historic theater and adjoining Taylor Mansion on North Second Streetâ€"once the center of African-American nightlife and entertainment in segregated Rich mondâ€"would open by April 2011 as a live-music venue and theater known as The Hipp, according to a proposal submitted to the City Council.

The $12 million restoration project has been approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and would also provide residential and retail space, a restaurant and audio-video production facilities.

Though it was not clear last week who would operate the venue, Mayor Dwight C. Jones has proposed a development agreement that would provide $600,000 over two years to the property owner and developer, Hippodrome-Taylor Mansion LLC.

Jackson Ward developer Ronald Stallings, with Hippodrome-Taylor Mansion, did not respond to several messages. City administration officials also would not discuss the project, but Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Peter H. Chapman emphasized its importance in a memo to council members.

“The Jackson Ward community is rich in African-American history and material culture and is strategically located as an economic gateway in downtown Richmond,“ he said. “The Hippodrome Theater is a significant icon in that African-American cultural and economic heritage.“

City officials have been talking with Stallings for years about reviving the Hippodrome, which was built in 1904 and rebuilt after a fire in 1945. James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and other black entertainers graced the stage during the theater’s heyday in segregated Richmond.

The Taylor Mansion was designed by architect John Lankford and built in 1907 for the Rev. W.L. Taylor, a leader of the United Order of True Reformers. The home was credited at the time with being the largest home of a black American in the United States, and it later became an Elks lodge.

In 2004, the council committed $800,000 to a plan that called for converting the theater and Taylor Mansion into a live-music venue and production facility similar to the Apollo Theater in New York’s Harlem. That deal never materialized, but last year the council set aside $300,000 in fiscal 2009-10 and $300,000 in fiscal 2010-11 for the Hippodrome project, described at the time as a blues club similar to ones named after guitarist B.B. King.

Councilman Charles R. Samuels, whose 2nd District includes part of Jackson Ward, said he’s unfamiliar with the current plan but is tentatively supportive. “It really could serve as a base or anchor for pulling development from Broad” Street.

The proposed agreement calls for the city grant to be released in installments through 2010 as the project meets construction milestones. A certificate of occupancy would be required by March 30, 2011. The city would be entitled to a reimbursement if the project isn’t finished by Sept. 1, 2011.

In addition to the city funding, the project would be financed with $2.8 million in state and federal tax credits, $4.7 million from investors and $3.8 million in debt financing, according to Chapman’s memo.

The project is expected to generate 42 full-time and 40 part-time jobs, and $300,000 annually in real estate and business taxes once it’s fully operating. The council could vote on the agreement as early as Nov. 23. It’s requested for the council’s consent agenda, meaning it could be approved with little or no discussion.