Downtown theater tour brings out more ideas

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Article By: Ottumwa Courier Online   |   Laura Carrell

OTTUMWA — Ideas for the two downtown theaters have been coming hot and heavy, and Sunday afternoon's steamy open house was no exception.

New Ottumwans, those who have come to town from countries around the world, were invited to tour the Capri and Capitol theaters at the corner of Main and Green streets. Organizers want to hear even more suggestions for the two spaces, now owned by the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, and the multicultural event was one more opportunity to hear what potential there might be.

Tours began a little earlier than planned, and theater project committee co-chairs Pam Kaupins and Jeff Hendred were excited to show anyone and everyone the space.

"A structural engineer was here last week," Kaupins said, "and he said the structure is great."

The majority of the debris left from previous owners has been cleared out, and it's now easy to see the bones of the buildings. These personal opportunities to see the theaters are allowing firsthand glimpses of the areas and how they could possibly look one day. This input is vital to defining what the final, sustainable new spaces can be.

"Now that we know what you'd actually use it for, let us as a committee develop what you said you want," Hendred said. "With the survey, we'll get a real clear picture of what people want."

Since the Legacy Foundation purchased the theaters and put a planning committee together, there have been many similar events to share ideas. Hendred specifically remembers a high school student at the town hall meeting asking about a recording space for musicians to create demo tapes. Then there were focus groups that suggested a black box theater, a wine and cheese bar and maker spaces for local artists to have workshops. The flexible spaces offer a variety of options — now it's about narrowing down the ideas.

In addition to Sunday's multicultural event, the theaters committee has also been talking with stakeholders and artists in the community. Representatives from Artspaces, the nonprofit developer hired by the Legacy Foundation for the project, will be in town this week for focus groups and meetings with individuals and organizations interested in using the space.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, lunch will be served at Hotel Ottumwa for business owners, event planners and anyone with great interest in the theater buildings for a focus group.

From 4:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Legacy is inviting art organizations in town, plus corporate and event planners, to share what they'd like to see housed in the space.

On a more communitywide level, an online survey will be available in early September to collect even more ideas and input. The short survey will include about 15 questions and will cover what potential there are in the buildings' many separate spaces.

"We're continuing to reach out," Kaupins said. "With this survey, everyone will have an opportunity to share their thoughts."

More information on the survey and the link to reach it will be released in the coming days.

For more information about the theaters and the plans in progress, visit the Ottumwa Theater Project on Facebook.

— Courier Features Editor Laura Carrell can be reached at lcarrell@ottumwacourier.com

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