ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — From 1924 to 1974, the Jefferson Center in downtown Roanoke was Jefferson High School, the home of the magicians. However, it may take more than magic to keep the center going. Operators are requesting $6 million from the city for what they say are necessary repairs.
Executive Director of the Jefferson Center, Cyrus Pace, shared that while many of the repairs may not be noticeable to the everyday person, they are necessary to continue operation.
“If we do it right, your experience won’t change when you come in in the hall because it will still be cool or warm and it’ll look great when you come and so if we do this right and do it pro-actively, we’re getting ahead of any concern that might directly affect a patron,” said Pace.
The center is now used for performances, social events, and arts education. It is even home to some non-profits and small businesses.
Pace explained that without help from the city, the center only has one or two years of life left. He says the money would be used to replace HVAC machines and repair a leaky roof. It also needs work on a fire panel and sprinkler system replacements, the floor and ceilings need repairing and the list goes on.
“It’s a place where you might come and see the opera, you might come see your daughter perform in a ballet, or you might come to a wedding, or social event here, or business event, we do so much for the community,” said Pace.
While the center is owned by the city, day-to-day upkeep of the facility is the responsibility of the Jefferson Center itself.
Senior director of Development, Kim Turner, said in the three decades it has been operating, an estimated over one million people have come through the building just to the performance hall alone.
“Jefferson Center has been open now for 30 years, and many of the systems that were put in when it was started are at the end of life. So, we’re not talking about maintenance we’re talking about the replacements that are necessary to continue the good work that we do,” said Turner.
The center took the proposal to the city council on Monday, Sept. 18. Council members said they would consider the request, but they have to be careful with their money.
“Right now, one of our elevators doesn’t work in this building [city hall], we’ve got roofs that are leaking in this building, we have obviously our capital needs as well I’ve got probably seven million dollars’ worth of needs in the jail as well,” said City Manager, Robert Cowell.
The council agreed to discuss the proposal at the next budget retreat coming up on Nov. 3. Pace said he is hopeful they can work together to keep the center alive.