Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku Maui

A new Hawaii law will also mean a new lease on life for the historic Iao Theater in Wailuku, Maui. The law, signed last month by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, will allow the nonprofit theater group Maui OnStage to lease the theater long-term and begin much-needed renovations on the 1928 structure.

Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, and Frank Sinatra performed at the Mission-style theater in the downtown Maui area. By the 1980s, the theater had fallen into disrepair, and developers in the area threatened the theater with demolition. County officials stepped in to purchase the building from private owners, and by 1995 spent almost $2 million to rehabilitate the theater.

Still, the theater wasn't getting the funds it needed for upkeep. Last summer, Maui OnStage, which has been operating out of the theater since 1984, expressed interest in leasing it and taking charge of renovations, but was denied by county officials: The law at the time required that the county offer an option to purchase property when granting a long-term lease. County council members said they couldn't risk selling a historic property.

But council members were sympathetic, and moved quickly to introduce a new bill specifically to address the Iao Theater dilemma: "Changing the law gives the non-profit what the non-profit needs and gives the county what the county needs," says Darla Palmer, former executive director of Maui OnStage, who now works as a consultant for the group. "It's something we can all be proud of."

The new long-term lease policy has no time limitations, and will allow Maui OnStage to tap into tax credits, foundation dollars, and private donations to fund the renovation, which will include updating the theater's sound and lighting systems, renovating the basement, and installing an air conditioning system.

"Without the long-term lease, we've been really stymied on rehabbing this historic structure," Palmer says. "People needed to know we were in it for the long haul, or they'd be disinclined to make a significant donation to renovating the theater. They want to make sure we're going to follow through and complete the project."


Post a Comment

<< Home