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academy center of the arts

project story

The Academy Center of the Arts is a wonderful example of how CJMW has not only designed the restoration of an historic building, but also assisted a community in applying for tax credits to help fund the project.

The Theater first opened in 1905 but was gutted by fire nine months later. It re-opened in 1911, completely re-built in the Beaux Arts style. During the next two decades, it was a regular destination for major Broadway road productions, hosting performances from legends such as humorist Will Rogers, “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy, actress Ethel Barrymore and the notorious Ziegfeld Follies. After the golden age of live performance came to an end around 1928, the theater was converted to a movie theater that closed in 1958.

In the following decades, historic-minded citizens saved the theater from demolition but were unable to raise the funds to do a full restoration. In 2012, a capital campaign was launched, supported by CJMW’s master plan for the theater. The campaign was successful in raising $16.75 million, exceeding the original goal of $16.6 million. The rest of the estimated project cost of $29 million will come from federal historic tax credits and New Market Tax Credits.

The restored theater will be the centerpiece of its umbrella organization, the Academy Center of the Arts, a regional organization offering arts and education classes as well as a studio theater. The completed Academy of Music Theater, scheduled to open in late 2018, will seat approximately 850 on the house level and in two balconies and will once again host a variety of live performances.

Work includes modern theater lighting and sound systems; new efficient and quiet HVAC systems; structural stabilization; acoustic and light isolation; backstage space programming; and repairs to historic finishes. A new transparent and minimalist lobby will span what was formerly 6th Street, connecting the Theater to administrative spaces and patron amenities in the adjacent support building.


Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
Square footage: 100,000
Services: master planning, architecture, interior design, ffe