COOS BAY — Empire may need more than a paint touch-up to repair its image woes, but the Dolphin Players is one step closer to helping after its facade improvement site plans were unanimously approved by the planning commission.
After speaking earlier this year about development in Empire, managing director Alice Carlson said the plans would add a lot more excitement to both the playhouse and area, given how plain the previous designs were.
"The original was pretty uninteresting and just a concrete building," Carlson said. "The only interesting thing is that at one point, there was a vertical sign, and it said Sunset Theatre. What we were hoping to do is add the Empire concept and not make a 1940s building into an 1890s lookalike."
As part of the facade improvements, the playhouse plans on refinishing and repainting the concrete shell, replacing windows and adding a marquee over the south entrance and exterior lighting.
Carlson said the concept of the improvements was to resemble those of Tokyo Bistro, which made considerable visual improvements to what was once an eyesore.
"That building had a considerable facelift," Carlson said. "It was a really ugly building, and Edna took it and made it into a really nice building."
Aside from the exterior improvements, Carlson said the playhouse has a number of other projects in mind, though when and how they are completed will be determined by the availability of funding.
"Right now, the facade improvement is the big thing," Carlson said. "We have a lot of work to do inside and have to replace the roof and do so within five or six years. Inside there's quite a few leftover projects, but the roof has increased the number of inside projects."
The playhouse would like to reintroduce the tapestry that once adorned the walls, but became bare after the playhouse put in disabled-accessible bathrooms.
To finance its future projects, Carlson said the playhouse would likely seek grant funding from urban renewal, the Oregon Community Foundation and the tribes, which recently gave them a small grant and have business interests in the area.
"We'll probably go back to Three Rivers because they are the logical people," Carlson said. "With buildings on both ends of Empire, they definitely have a vested interest in the development and improvement of Empire."
Carlson did not forget to include the importance of local donations, which have helped finance its need for roof repairs.
"We get some nice donations from the community and that's how we're doing the roof," Carlson said. "We could always use more backers and small to medium donations, but most of the things we've been able to do is with the city of Coos Bay, who have been wonderful."
While monetary donations are greatly appreciated, the playhouse could also use expertise in finance and planning, which would also help the playhouse's visions come to fruition more seamlessly.
"Financial discipline is almost the downfall for most arts groups," Carlson said. "To think about it creatively and create a plan, that's one of the most difficult parts for artistic-minded people, which is why we really need a development person interested in focusing on that."
Before closing, chair Christine Coles praised the playhouse for seeking out and following through with the improvements.
"I know they've been working on this for a long time and a lot of kudos to them," Coles said. "Nice work.
In the picture: George Nixon shows what the proposed facade work on the Dolphin Playhouse on Newmark Avenue would look like if they can get enough money for the project.
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