The facade of the Pantheon Theatre will stay looking a century-old for a little while longer.
Amid rising construction costs, local architects and officials with the Pantheon are going back to the drawing board in finding a contractor to do a complete exterior restoration of the historic Main Street theater.
The city’s Board of Works last month opened bids on behalf of the Pantheon for an exterior restoration as well as some additional amenities for inside; they received two, and both were over budget.
Federal officials in September paid a visit to the shared workspace and small business incubator at 428 Main St. to announce that the Pantheon had been granted a $732,080 grant from the Economic Development Administration.
Combined with a $182,000 match provided by the Knox County Development Corp., the grant allows for $914,000 to be spent on the remaining projects.
The bids, however, came in at more than $1 million each.
Wolfe Construction, Vincennes, submitted a base bid of just under $1.5 million, while DanCo Construction in Evansville submitted a lesser price of $1.05 million.
Both companies, too, submitted bids for a handful of alternates totaling about $200,000. Alternate projects include the addition of a stage curtain to create a separate, rentable space for larger events, as well as some acoustical stage panels for the balcony area, additional sound panels throughout the building and equipment, things like a 3-D printer, laser cutters, etc., for a maker’s space.
But all that is likely off the table, at least for now, architects say, as construction costs are rising rapidly following the pandemic.
“The focus will have to be the exterior,” said architect Alan Knepp with Myszak and Partners Architecture and Development, Vincennes. “We’ll prioritize tuckpointing, the (new) marquee and windows and doors.”
Knepp said all of the original alternates will be included in the rebid process, and some items lumped into the base bid last time will be broken out to make even more.
“So if we have anything left over, that’s when we would be able to add some interior work,” he said.
Knepp said they are finishing up the revisions to the drawings, and those will have to go to the EDA for approval before it can be rebid.
He is hopeful, however, to get specifications back out to contractors by by the end of the month.
And while disappointing, Knepp said given the rising cost of construction materials, they weren’t surprised to see the bids come in so high.
“We were shooting for everything,” he said of the first bid process, “but pricing has gone up, and we knew that.
“The original budget was done pre-COVID,” he said. “So that’s where the difficulty is coming from. Everything has gone up, lumber substantially, even windows and doors, too. It is what it is, so we’ll dial it all back a notch, see if we can get it within the budget.”
Per the grant requirements, the project was supposed to be finished by the end of the year, but there is now some wiggle room.
“We still have plenty of time,” he added. “That can be adjusted. We just have to have it under construction by September, and we still have plenty of time for that.
“This has pushed us back by a month, maybe a month and a half, but nothing troubling.”
The city and county split the $2.4 million cost of the interior transformation, which is wrapping up now. The shared workspace opened in December, and while the building is jointly owned by the city and county, daily operations are overseen by a separate board.