The historic OK Theatre in downtown Enterprise received a much-needed boost last week: A $100,000 grant that allows theater owner Darrell Brann to make much-needed improvements to both the interior and exterior of the building.
The grant was awarded May 9 by the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Program, part of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The funding went to Greater Enterprise Main Street organization, which will oversee the contracting.
Brann said that he had only heard about the grant in December 2016 while he was working on a separate application for the theater’s facade. Chris Marko, rural development specialist for the Rural Communities Assistance Corporation, brought it to Brann’s attention. With the help of real estate broker Diane Daggett, the application was finished March 17, just in time for consideration in the latest round of funding.
“I didn’t have the first clue about a grant,” Brann said, crediting Daggett’s help. He also praised Marko for assisting with a business plan and laying the groundwork.
Marko said there has been great interest in seeing downtown revitalization in Enterprise over the past several years. He added that rural communities group has coordinated with the program for four years to further Enterprise economic development, downtown revitalization and for the OK Theater project specifically.
“It’s been a big part of my role with the Main Street program,” he said. “The theater’s unique, it’s a one-of-a-kind in the region.”
According to Marko, Daggett served as the local lead for the project as well as Enterprise city government. The project also received a dozen letters of support from various factions and individuals in the city.
“It really engaged the city as well as businesses to show support for the theatre, which helped get the grant,” he said. Marko also credited former Enterprise mayor Margie Shaw for initiating the grant.
“It’s super – just really exciting for us,” said Wendy Stewart, head of Greater Enterprise Main Street.
Brann has the funds earmarked for specific projects.
“The first priority for the grant is installing ADA-complaint bathrooms,” he said, meaning they will be handicap accessible. “It’s always been a concern for me, and now we have a way to tackle it. This also helped pave the way for some updating of the electrical system.”
He was working with Wallowa County Grain Growers on installing a new heating and air-conditioning system as well as possibly installing solar panels. A new film screen is also in the works.
Brann hopes to initiate the restoration project in early December. There is a three-year timeline specified in the grant.
“The bathrooms aren’t scheduled for completion until sometime in late June or early July,” he said. “You won’t see any big changes until the bathrooms open. Basically we’re taking everything down and reframing.”
The theater is also required to contribute in the neighborhood of $40,000 to the project, which can include labor and materials. Brann believes it’s possible to raise even more.
“We’re planning a grand reopening of the theater in the summer of 2019 to celebrate its centennial,” Brann said. “It’s been a real community effort to keep this going. We would continue with or without a grant to do what we’re doing, which is bringing quality shows into Wallowa County.”