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Renovation begins in art district

With lighting and sidewalks nearly done from the Downtown Revitalization project, it’s now time to freshen up the buildings those lights and sidewalks are for. Created and approved officially on April 9, 2007, The Farris Arts District Project has begun.
Actually, several such projects are underway, such as Hometown Pizza and its new brick front on the north side of the square, Mark Goodwin’s a newly renovated law office on the south side of the square, and renovations to the former Hughes Wasson Bank building, now Edward Jones Investments, on the corner of Main and College streets.
On Tuesday, a crew with Washington Roofing & Installation of Great Bend, Kan., arrived to begin phase one of the project: preparation to spray a foam roof with a urethane top coat on the three buildings that make up the Farris Arts District.
“They have plans to work on this all week,” said Lesley Green, executive director of the Farris. “But, we don’t know how this weather change will affect them.”
Heavy spring rains in 2008 delayed the Downtown Revitalization project and contributed to the July 9 collapse of a portion of the brick fascade on the northeast corner of what is called the third building of the Farris Arts District. The $3,500 repairs stabilized the structure and served as a preliminary project as the Friends of the Farris waited for the Arts District grant request to be approved.
On June 13, 2008, Missouri Sen. Bill Stouffer announced Friends of the Farris, Inc., was awarded a 70 percent Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) Tax Credit by the Missouri Dept. of Economic development to complete the Farris Arts District Project.
The NAP would generate $368,850 in donations for the project and leverage $258,195 in State of Missouri Tax Credits between July 1, 2008 and June 20, 2011 to qualified donors.
“We’ve been collecting more NAP donations,” said Green. “We have enough to do phase one (the roof), but we need more.”
Rob Swafford, president of Friends of the Farris, Inc., announced last summer that the Farris Arts District Project would “renovate and preserve two historic buildings in downtown Richmond that are presently underutilized and are in danger of being condemned by city government.” He also said the project would further protect the existing Farris Theatre building.
“The Farris Theatre is a vital center of the community and will expand that role with the renovation of the adjacent properties to increase participation in the fine arts and performing arts in the area,” Swafford said.
The Farris Arts District will include the Farris Theatre, built in 1901, and the two buildings behind the theater. Both buildings were built in the early twentieth century, after the Farris. The middle building was originally built for The Knights of Pyhtias. The other building was for The Fraternal Order of Eagles.
New purposes, interiors and exteriors are in store for the two buildings. The building directly behind the Farris will be The Hall for Arts Education. It will have a rehearsal hall, scenery shop, costume and prop storage, and a classroom/meeting room.
The next building will become The Gallery and Museum for Fine Arts. It will include the box office, community room, art gallery, museum, additional offices and a room for pre and post performance events and residency study programs.
When the phase one roofing portion of the project is completed, phase two is expected to commence. It will entail painting the exterior of the theater.
“It’ll be power-washed first and they’ll do whatever scraping is needed before they paint it,” said Green. A.T. Switzer Painting Company of Kansas City will do the work.
“The painting company plans to start in the next 30-60 days with the completion of the roof contract,” said Swafford.
Once the painting is completed, labor will begin on the Hall and Gallery. Green said renovations will be made to the interior and exteriors of both buildings. The architect behind the new design for these buildings is Dennis Tuck of Architectuckture of Kansas City.
Friends of the Farris are still accepting qualified NAP donations. These, in turn, dictate the speed with which renovations occur. The goal was to raise $100,000 by Dec. 31, 2008. Though they have raised over $77,000, more is needed to complete the work.
“While the tax credit is a major key to the success of this project, donations from other businesses and individuals that may not qualify for the tax credit are equally as important,” said Swafford. “We’ll welcome any donations.”
Swafford added, “You can ‘Make a Change for the Farris Arts District’ by taking home a popcorn container and putting in your spare change until it’s full and then return it to the Farris as your contribution.”
For more information, or to make a donation, please contact Rob Swafford at 816-776-2288 or Stephanie Landwehr, treasurer, at 816-470-2265.
Photo: Orange cones and work trucks began lining up along Camden and Main streets this week for renovation work in the Farris Arts District. (Photo by Brenda Jensen/The Daily News)

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