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Kilgore reclaims Crim Theater; works continues on Texan

By by Reese Gordon rgordon@news-journal.com
March 12, 2014 at 11 p.m.


KILGORE - The city of Kilgore has reclaimed the Crim Theater after a person who planned to renovate the historic downtown icon failed to meet "benchmarks" outlined by the city this past year in a contractual agreement.

That decision means work on another downtown theater will likely be done on time.

Rick Herron planned to renovate the Crim and Texan theaters for the city; however, Herron hasn't been able to reach measures set by the city on the Crim, so the City Council on Tuesday approved reclaiming the theater.

Herron could not immediately be reached for comment.

City Manager Scott Sellers said city officials met with Herron two months ago to discuss the city's plan to reclaim the Crim Theater, which has been an icon of downtown Kilgore since 1939.

"The Texan would be much faster and a cheaper alternative than Crim Theater, and Rick agreed to that," Sellers said. "Basically, he was going to start paying a lease payment, starting early this year. Work to secure the building and plumbing maintenance was supposed to be done, but none of that has gotten done."

The council in May voted to allow Herron to renovate the two theaters as part of a lease-purchase agreement with the goal of readying the two locations to become stages for music, Texas Shakespeare Festival plays and other events.

Sellers said taking the Crim Theater restoration work off of Herron's plate will make it easier to reach the May 2015 "milestones" for the Texan Theater.

"The original agreement with the Texan had benchmarks and those have not changed," he said. "But those milestones now appear more feasible."

Sellers said work to be done on the Texan Theater includes securing the exterior from the elements, infrastructure improvement and piping.

However, the biggest obstacle to restoring the Texan Theater may be removing asbestos.

Sellers said the council has already approved budgeting $100,000 for asbestos abatement, with finances taken from the city's general fund.

As for the Crim Theater, Sellers said the city is reviewing all of its options.

"There is a lot of history to the Crim," he said. "Many of our community members want to preserve that history."

One option for restoring the Crim Theater is bringing in Komatsu Architecture for fundraising efforts.

The Fort Worth firm specializes in historic preservation and planning and has offered pro bono services to help the project move forward, Sellers told the council Tuesday night.

Dana Compton, director of business development for Komatsu Architecture, said she has already visited Kilgore to assess the physical condition of the Crim Theater and believes funds can be raised to restore it back to its glory days.

"It needs work, certainly," she said. "But it's not so far gone that it's going to be a really huge undertaking. We see so much potential in that building. There isn't anything else like it on the main street of Kilgore. They have done an excellent job of revitalizing Main Street to this point, and reviving the Crim Theater would be huge for downtown Kilgore."

Compton said her firm has done a substantial amount of work in Northeast Texas and is currently restoring courthouses in Franklin, Upshur and Marion counties.

"How we first got connected with Kilgore is through former Main Street Manager Clara Chaffin. I ran into her at a conference a while back, and she mentioned the Crim Theater, and we came out and looked at it," she said.

Compton said Komatsu Architecture provides pro bono work "on a limited basis," and that usually involves grant writing and fundraising efforts.

"You do this work with the hope it turns into something bigger (a paying project)," she said. "We want to help get the project off the ground when the city is having a hard time raising the funds. It's really for everybody to win."

Compton said asking for community members to help support a restoration project is "not easy" but can be done.

"We've done it for so many years and are very familiar with gaining a consensus," she said. "You have very emotional people on either side but, through information, we have been able to help the city come to a consensus where both sides feel like they've won."

Komatsu Architecture is in the process of renovating Bowie Auditorium in Bowie and designed restoration plans for the Texas Theatre in Dallas.

If the city can't garner funds to restore the Crim Theater, Sellers said it may become available to the public once again.

"If we can't get a good design and are unsuccessful fundraising, we may have to go back out (into community) with it again," he said.

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