After almost four years of talking about it, construction on the historic Mars Theatre in downtown Springfield became a reality on Monday morning as the old roof began to come off.
Workers for Clay Chandler shoveled and stripped off the old roofing paper atop the 1946-era movie house, throwing the debris over the roof into a waiting dumpster below.
The project is a joint collaboration between the city of Springfield and the SRC. The city has made $50,000 available for construction on the building and the first phase will include a new roof, a refurbished lobby and building façade, along with a new ADA-compliant restroom. The group is scheduling a planning meeting within the next two weeks to discuss the next steps in the process.
“I’m extremely excited about this,” said SRC vice president Barbara Oglesby.
She said that by getting all the key experts together in a planning meeting, they can determine how to utilize the building with the least amount of expense.
“So the more use we can get out of it,” Oglesby said, “the more we can use for programming. We’ve got volunteers already who’ve said they will donate time and help us get the inside ready to use.”
City council member Butch Kieffer said the roofers should have their job finished by the end of this week, depending on rain. He said rather than taking the roof off section by section, they will tear the whole thing off and replace it. That way they can spot and repair any damaged wood while they’re working.
Kieffer said the next step would be to have someone come in and tear out all the old ceiling tiles that are so badly water-stained. Because of the sloping floor, he said they would adjust the scaffolding so one side is shorter than the other, making the working surface flat.
Once the building is dried in, the SRC plans to organize volunteer weekends to get inside and start doing some cleaning in the building. The SRC continues to raise construction funds by hosting bingo nights, chili cookoffs and other events.
The group has begun selling personalized bricks and commemorative theatre seats to raise money. You can purchase either a new or an authentic, original Mars theatre seat with a brass plaque bearing your name as a donor. They also are pursuing grants to help fund completion of the building project.