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Columbia rebirth gets $49,000 grant

Staff report

A $49,000 state grant will allow the removal of asbestos and lead from the old Columbia Theatre in downtown Paducah. 

The money is from the state Energy and Environmental Cabinet. The fund, which is administered through the Division of Compliance Assistance, provides financial assistance for projects that clean up brownfield properties, including old factories, former gas stations, and other properties that are abandoned or underutilized due to environmental contamination.

"We are very pleased that we have been awarded this grant from the state for the ultimate cleanup of the site," said Darlene Mazzone, co-chairwoman of the Columbia Club, the nonprofit organization pursuing the restoration and rehabilitation of Paducah's landmark movie palace.

"This will help us to move forward with the first physical step in the restoration and preservation work. Before we can do virtually anything inside the theater we have to remove these substances from the environment."

The restored theater will be used as a cinematic art house and provide a venue for live music and educational programs.

Mazzone said that an assessment has been performed and a proposal to perform the environmental cleanup is being considered.

Once the total funding is in place, the work can begin.

"The total cost of the cleanup is approximately $300,000," she said. "However, we are hopeful that some very generous local businesses will be working with us to provide some of these services in kind so that the total can be substantially reduced. Once we have final numbers for the work, we will make plans to implement the environmental abatement process so that our stage will be set to move ahead very soon with our capital campaign."

Mazzone says the next step in the process will be to engage a consultant to do a feasibility study.

"We want to let people know that soon we will be reaching out to many local and regional individuals to ask for their input on the project so that we can continue to create a viable plan to move the Columbia restoration forward," she said.

The Columbia Club is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the theater. Information about the project and membership in the club is available at thecolumbiaclub.org.

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