The Lyric Theatre sits at the corner of Third St. and Elm Tree Lane. This photo was taken earlier this year.

When the Lyric Theater Task Force was appointed by then mayor Teresa Isaac in October 2005 it looked like the project was going to begin moving “full steam” ahead. In an October of 2006 letter included in The Lyric Theater Task Force Program Study, Chairperson Juanita Betz Peterson stated there had been 15 task force meetings, 4 public meetings, 2 open house events, completion of various technical studies and reports “and now presentation of this conceptual design of what the Lyric Theater can be.” Since that time the public has been invited inside several more times and more concrete plans have been revised, the city council approved the $6 million needed for the proposed plans in the fi scal year 2008-09 budget but there is still no construction.

Almost one year after the January 27, 2008 construction start date the building still sits abandoned in disrepair. At the original presentation to the city in 2006 to request the funds Councilman Dick DeCamp said, “I know it’s a very emotional situation but we have to be practical. If we’re going to do this right we need to hire a theater consultant because we want it to succeed and be in a position to support itself.” Charlie Boland who is a Task Force member and part of the Mayor’s staff said, “Council asked for a business plan and budget so we hired a professional arts consultant, AMS Planning and Research Corporation. They will help us determine the expected operating costs and how much of that will be needed from the city each year.” The Task Force will make a presentation of the research company findings to the council in early 2009. Boland says that the future of the project is not “contingent” on the fi ndings of the report but that it is just the “next step.” “It took over a year to acquire the necessary property to accommodate the expansion,” said Boland. He says that is what has delayed the project by more than a year.

Now that the buildings are gone the Task Force can fi nally move. Boland says that the architect is finalizing the design, construction documents should be ready in January or February to put out to bid and an 18 month construction time is expected. By mid year 2010 the Lyric could be complete but that will be past the January 27, 2010 expected completion date. Based on an understanding with the state if the project lingers past that date there could be fines. “In my experience, if we have a signifi cant amount of the work done the state will not fi ne us but we’ll keep them abreast of our progress along the way,” said Boland.

Betz-Peterson is still excited about the project. “The community should continue to look forward and think positively. We have to be a little more patient,” she told us. Realizing the tight budget constraints on governments across the nation she also said, “It never hurts for people to let their council persons know how you feel about the project and that you’re still for it.” In it’s hey-day the Lyric Theater was used for style shows, live concert performances by such entertainers as Cab Calloway and Redd Foxx, and as a movie theater that featured “Westerns”. Though never Black owned, it served the Black community during a time when Blacks were banned from the Kentucky Theater on Main Street. For that reason, it became a gathering place for culture and entertainment among members of Lexington’s Black community.

$1.2 million was allocated from the state to refurbish the site but at the time, the building was owned by a non-profi t agency which let the building further dilapidate until it was taken by city of Lexington through eminent domain proceedings. The city argued that it would be in the best interest of the community that the theater be owned by the city, who would see to it that the building be restored to a useful state.

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