Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 12, 2013

Mercer Street

Renaissance Project welcomed

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The Princeton Renaissance Project — an initiative that began as part of Princeton’s Blueprints Communities designation — is a welcomed movement that should help with ongoing efforts to revitalize and promote new economic development and growth on Mercer Street.

One of the first projects the group is hoping to tackle is a restoration of the former Lavon Theater on Mercer Street as a movie theater and playhouse. The work is part of a larger initiative aimed at jump-starting economic development and redevelopment in downtown Princeton.

“We discussed it when we first started coming up with ideas for renovating downtown,” Greg Puckett, a project member with the Princeton Renaissance Project and executive director of Community Connections, said last week of the theater project. “We look at this as a renaissance in a lot of different ways, not just in terms of economic development and redevelopment but as an artistic renaissance as well. We know there are things you can do to have a successful downtown.”

Puckett is correct. And a great starting point for such a downtown renaissance would be the old Lavon Theater. Originally opened as the Royal Theater, the building itself has been utilized in a variety of ways throughout the years.

 “It has a whole lot of history,” Puckett said of the historic structure. “I believe it was built in the 1930s as the Royal Theater. It would seat 300 to 400 people with a balcony and stage. There was a jewelry shop there at one time. For many years in the mid-1980s it was used as a church.”

Many of the original architectural aspects of the theater are still in place. For example, the stage is still intact. The original seats are still in the theater, and the balcony is still standing.

The group is currently pursuing funding to help with the purchase and renovation of the structure. The committee needs $80,000 to secure the building, and an estimated $300,000 to refurbish the structure.

They are appealing to the community, area foundations, business owners and others for assistance. And that’s not just in terms of donated dollars. They also need electricians, carpenters, masons, artisans and other volunteers to help with the theater renovations. The group also is pursuing grant funding for the development.

When the renovations are complete, Puckett said the plan is for the building to be used for community activities such as first-run movies, plays, concerts and other events. The hope is the redevelopment of the theater will inspire others to take another look at opening their own businesses on Mercer Street.

We believe the theater purchase and renovation is an excellent starting point for the Princeton Renaissance Project. We join the committee members in appealing to the community for support of this worthwhile initiative.