Work on the Everett Theater renovation project has started with the demolition of the rear portion of the building.

Crews began tearing down the dilapidated apartments behind the former theater on East Main Street late last week.

The nonprofit group Reimagine Everett took over ownership of the property this past fall with hopes of renovating the theater into a new performing arts and community center.

“This is part of our efforts to make Everett a recreation destination,” said Teresa Burd, chairwoman of the nonprofit.

Burd said the theater project follows the construction of an amphitheater at Tenley Park in 2017, which is used to host a number of concerts during the year. The park is operated by the Everett Area Recreation Board.

Zane Lingenfelter Excavating of Bedford is handling the demolition.

Burd said the rear of the building and the former Granatelli’s bar need to be removed for safety reasons.

She said the former bar has particularly bad water damage.

“There’s more damage to its roof than anywhere,” she said.

Continuous rain over the summer and into the early parts of winter added to the damage, Burd said. Local leaders questioned the stability of the structure and whether it would withstand the winter.

“That’s why we rushed to get this going,” she said.

Crews have much of the rear apartments torn down, although Burd said it will take some time to haul the debris away.

Once the rear of the building is down, Burd said the former bar in front will need to be taken down.

“It’s in between two buildings so it’ll mainly have to be done manually,” Burd said, noting a new wall will need to be built on the side of the theater. “Once that building (the bar) is removed, a portion of the theater will be exposed.”

The demolition has drawn the attention of residents around the borough.

“I think there’s more spectators at the demolition than we had when the amphitheater opened,” Burd joked, referencing the stage at Tenley Park.

Burd said Reimagine Everett has been attempting to explain to people the need for the buildings to come down and its plans for the theater.

“It’s bittersweet for a lot of people,” she said.

Burd she nonprofit has a Facebook page dedicated to keeping the community updated on the work.

“We want to be as transparent as possible,” she said.

Demolition of the apartments and the bar is expected to be done in about six weeks.

The nonprofit then will look to replace the roof on the theater, which Burd said also has water damage.

“It’s going to be a big job,” she said. “Once we’re finished with the demolition, we’ll go on to the roof.”

The group is hoping to begin fundraising to help pay for the needed repairs. Burd said it also will be applying for a number of different grants.

“That’s the only way we can make this happen,” she said.

Burd said local dollars are still needed as many of the grants will require the group to match a percentage of the funding.

Everett Borough helped fund the demolition with a $100,000 loan through the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s revolving loan program. The nonprofit won’t need to pay back the loan unless it sells the property at some point in the future.

Reimagine Everett estimated total renovation work will exceed $500,000.

The theater was originally built in 1923 and will be celebrating its centennial in four years.

Burd said the nonprofit is hopeful renovations will be done in time to celebrate the centennial.

The plan is for the landmark theater to serve as a performing arts and community center. Burd said it will feature live entertainment and other community functions.

“We want it to be used at all times,” she said.

She also is hopeful it can have a screen for showing film.

Burd said the new center will be one of the pieces to help revitalize the community. She said efforts to save the theater and its marquee are important because it’s a recognizable part of the town’s history.

“I just can’t imagine Everett without that marquee,” she said.

Reimagine Everett is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/reimagineverett. Donations can be made on its website, www. reimagineverett.org.

Contact Will DeShong at wdeshong@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 150.

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