City to issue raze order for Fox Theater
For the City Times
Submitted by CREATE Portage County
STEVENS POINT — CREATE Portage County learned yesterday that the City of Stevens Point will issue a 90-day raze order on the Fox sometime next week. This announcement comes shortly after the initial launch of a capital campaign to reimagine the facility as a 21st century hub for creativity and innovation.
Rather than stalling CREATE’s plans, this announcement is energizing them. The campaign has already entered the advanced gift phase and is scheduled for completion in April of 2020. Early responses to the project have been overwhelmingly positive. CREATE is pleased to report already raising one-third of its $3.5 million goal, with many asks pending and a majority still to be scheduled.
The City is right, however, to have concerns about the deteriorating condition of the facility. The roof on the Fox is beyond patching and needs to be replaced. A truss fell years ago, and the temporary structure designed to secure it is also at the end of its service. Water is also entering the building through old masonry that requires tuckpointing. Without quick action, the facility is a risk to public safety and the structures around it.
These concerns are addressed in our current plans, which call for razing significant sections of the building to preserve the historic façade while focusing on energy-efficient new construction designed to meet the current and future needs of our community. Based on our successful IDEA Center pilot and on national trends in support of the new economy, civic spaces, entrepreneurship, and the arts, the reimagined Fox will improve the quality of life in Portage County while expanding our capacity to attract and retain the next generation of residents. This facility is a component piece of CREATE’s larger economic and community development strategy that is already paying dividends for our community.
But we are beyond investing any more money in short-term solutions that buy time for the Fox. The Fox has been a question in this community for too long. We know the circumstances. We have a viable plan. We are ready to move. As a community, it is time to breathe new life into the Fox or to let that piece of our history go.
The City’s raze order gives us a timeline. We have 90 days to secure enough pledges to show confidence in the project and to work out a plan with the City for moving forward. If we are unable to do so, CREATE will comply with this order and the Fox will come down.
The time to act is now. Spread the word. Talk to your representatives and employers. Volunteer. If you have the capacity to make a pledge of your own, please contact us at [email protected] to set up a meeting. If you would like to learn more about the project, visit www.createportagecounty.org/anewfox.
The Sanders family did not donate the Fox Theatre to the Arts Alliance of Portage County with the idea of tearing it down 7 years later. The Sanders family — Ada, Donald and Jeanette — talked with the Arts Alliance of Portage County about the donation. It was a joint effort by Art Alliance of Portage County Board President Bill Schierl and Ada Sanders, the granddaughter of G. F. Andrae, the original owner and builder of the Fox. On February 1, 2013, the Arts Alliance of Portage County, Inc. formally accepted the donation of the Fox Theatre from Ada, Donald and Jeanette Sanders. “My brother, sister and I have been waiting a long time for the right opportunity to contribute the Fox to the cultural vitality of our community,” commented Ada Sanders. “It has always been our goal to see the Fox reopened”.
It was meant to be a theatre; a performing arts venue! The fact that one person on the board did not understand that, is an embarrassment to our Portage County community, an insult to the Sanders family, and a tragic loss for Stevens Point.
Cities smaller than Stevens Point have viable, working theatres operating 360 days a year, showing classic movies, presenting live music and dance, plays, lectures, weddings and graduations, and children’s programs. We could have had a working theatre by now as well except CREATE Portage County wants to tear the whole thing down so they’ll have a place to store a 3D printer. Personally I think someone needs to be held accountable for the on-going neglect. When the Sanders family donated the Fox Theatre to the Arts Alliance of Portage County, Inc., an inspection at that time gave the building a clean bill of health, even stating that it was in better shape than the inspectors had expected. Since CREATE (formerly known as Arts Alliance of Portage County, Inc.) took custodianship of the building, they have allowed the structure to degrade so far that a raze order has been issued? Something smells. In an open survey by the Arts Alliance of Portage County in 2013, an overwhelming response was that the people of Portage County wanted a performance venue alternative. In 1982 the Fox Theater was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. Will 2019 be the year that it is taken down because of neglect?