The next and possibly final step in renovating the former Central School into the Chehalem Cultural Center got a boost last week thanks to sizable gifts from a statewide foundation and a family with a familiar name in the community.
Construction of the CCC's next project, the Performing Arts Wing, will include reconstruction of the historic school's auditorium into the 250-seat LaJoie Theatre, a dance and movement studio. In tandem will be renovation of the entrance of the facility on Sheridan Street into the Tri Family Grand Lobby.
The LaJoie name is familiar to longtime Newberg residents as Merlin and Sandy LaJoie once operated Newberg Transfer and Recycling on Wynooski Street, which became the Newberg transfer station owned and operated by Waste Management several decades ago. The Tri family name is also familiar to Newbergers in that Kathy Tri was finance director at the city of Newberg for many years.
Combined, the projects are expected to cost an estimated $5 million: the Marie Lanfrom Charitable Foundation donated $300,000 toward completion of the project, as did the Tri family.
"Arts and culture have always been a part of our lives and both Nick and I are longtime theater lovers," Kathy Tri said in a release from the CCC. "The way a theater brings people together is unique and powerful. We are excited to be part of this project now because it will bring art closer to our community and help build a vibrant downtown."
Leaders of the philanthropic organization echoed Tri's sentiments:
"The Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation is thrilled to support such a wonderful project," CEO Rachel Bany said. "The new Performing Arts Wing at the Chehalem Cultural Center will bring so much joy to the thriving town of Newberg and neighboring communities. Our mission is, and always has been, to empower organizations that facilitate human connection, learning and joy, and we are happy this project will do just that."
CCC officials said the monetary gifts mark a turning point in the cultural center's efforts to raise the cash needed to begin construction on the performing arts wing in spring 2022. To date that effort has surpassed $3 million (roughly 60% of the overall costs) via individual gifts, foundation support and committed funds.
CCC officials are now seeking to partner with the Cultural Advocacy Coalition and other state arts organizations to lobby the Oregon Senate for an additional $1.25 million in state money for the project.
"We are incredibly fortunate to have such wonderful support for this project in our community," CCC Executive Director Sean Andries said. "Both the Tri Family and the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation have been partners to the CCC for many years, but I think excitement around what a venue like this can mean for Yamhill County is what encouraged them to come on board now and in such a big way."
Construction of the performing arts wing may indeed be a boon for the county because the county lacks a "professional midsize, public use performance venue" and it could be an economic boon to the region as well, CCC officials said.
"An independent economic study by ECONorthwest confirms this $5 million project will support 31 construction jobs," the release from the CCC said. "Construction related impacts are estimated to lead to $2.1 million in spending in Yamhill County. In addition to these near-term impacts, this project will create a lasting and sustained impact on the economic future of the area. By providing an anchor attraction, the CCC's Performing Arts Wing and LaJoie Theatre will increase traffic to local restaurants, shops and businesses, creating the equivalent of 17 full-time jobs."
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