As the historic Elba Theatre sat empty for decades, the city was making plans to revive it. The decision was ultimately made this year to make it a cultural arts center.

“We can show the film as it used to show film, but we also have a stage, so we will have the capability of doing concerts and small theatrical performances,” said Justin Maddox, co-founder of Restoration 154, a community-building organization founded with a mission of completing 154 projects over time, representing the 154 miles of the Pea River.

Maddox said the center will also serve as a venue for banquets and other events. A $30,000.00 grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts will help fund the project, which is now in the design phase.

“We were lucky enough to be paired with Lord Aek Sargent out of Atlanta, and they’re providing the first half of it pro bono, which is our match for the $30,000.00 grant,” said Laurie Chapman, the executive director of Restoration 154.

For long time Elba residents, it is a new chapter to a cherished history dating back over the last century.

Mom and dad drove up out front, opened the car door, the kids piled out and had a good time,” said Jimmy Harrison, who worked at the theater from 1959 to 1961. “It really was a wonderful facility for that time, and I’m just excited about the fact that it’s coming back.”

“We’re excited. This will get us to a point where we can continue to move forward,” said Maddox.

“It’s just always exciting to help our community, and this is really part of a wider range of things that we’re trying to do in Elba. We’re all focused on bringing the arts and bringing culture to our downtown,” Chapman said.

The theater renovation is just one part of the picture, in terms of Elba’s ongoing revitalization efforts. The city was designated as a Main Street Alabama community last year.

Main Street Alabama, which is affiliated with the National Main Street Center, is a non-profit organization using a national model for its selection process. It’s objective: revitalizing cities, while helping them organize, design and promote their local economies.

Members of Restoration 154 said the total cost of the project will be determined during the design phase, and a capital campaign is underway to fund the remaining cost.