Officials close to the Pantheon have secured a more than $700,000 federal grant that will pay for a complete exterior restoration of the historic theater at 428 Main St.
Dana Gartzke, performing the delegated duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, paid a visit to the shared workspace and small business incubator Friday morning, and in front of a crowd of eager city and county officials and community leaders, announced that the city, on behalf of the Pantheon, had been granted a $732,080 grant from the Economic Development Administration, money that will pay for the exterior restoration as well as some additional technology.
From inside the same space where great entertainers like Duke Ellington and Vincennes’ own Red Skelton once performed, Gartzke said the building would once again be used to “fund economic vibrancy in the community.”
By fostering new entrepreneurial minds, he said the Pantheon would uncover the future “Thomas Edison’s” of the world, ones that will work to “build new and wonderful ideas and inventions right here in Vincennes.”
The Pantheon, too, is located in a federal Opportunity Zone, a designated area that provides tax incentives for the businesses who locate within their boundaries.
Opportunity Zones, Gartzke said, provide “unique ways to transform both urban and rural communities.” They provide a “new arrow in the quiver to encourage public and private partnerships.”
They “can and will jump start new life into neighborhoods,” he said.
But the Pantheon grant marks the first time the EDA has invested in an Opportunity Zone in the state of Indiana.
“So Vincennes is, yet again, up first,” he said.
The Pantheon: A Business and Innovation Theatre is set to open in mid-November.
City and county officials now jointly own the downtown building, and a separate operations board will oversee daily operations.
The city and county split the initial $2.4 million to get the transformation under way, and the Knox County Development Corp., too, has chipped in more than $600,000, including the necessary local match — or $182,020.
The city’s Redevelopment Commission, too, is a financial partner.
Jason Salstrom, director of Purdue University’s Foundry WestGate — a division of Crane — has officially signed on to be its entrepreneur in residence, and the Pantheon will have direct ties to Purdue University moving forward.
Mayor Joe Yochum told Gartzke the city was “excited” to have the EDA’s partnership in the development of the Pantheon, and he touted the partnerships struck so far that have allowed for construction.
“When everybody works together, it’s amazing what you can produce,” he said. “This is a perfect example of that.”
Knowing that the theater will now get the exterior restoration it needs — city officials tried and failed twice before to secure a state grant for the work — is the “icing on the cake.”
Exterior work will include everything from new doors and windows to tuck-pointing and even a restoration of its original marquee.
“That marquee once held the names of talented singers and performers,” he said. “In the future, we’ll have new talent on that marquee, our own residents, our own youth that will develop ideas that will benefit all of Knox County.
“But not just Knox County,” he said. “They will be ideas that will change the world.”
Matt Sward with the Southern Indiana Development Commission in Loogootee also pointed to the Pantheon as the new “centerpiece” for a thriving downtown.
The Pantheon will soon facilitate new business startups and foster the growth of existing businesses as well as retain its youth.
The shared workspace and small business incubator, too, will provide the entrepreneurial eco-system necessary to provide greater incomes, jobs and wealth, he said.
Red Skelton once called the Pantheon his “inspiration,” Sward said, “and now it will have the opportunity to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
And Nichole Like, a former county council member and now the Pantheon’s executive director, called the grant the sweet, rewarding end of a “long hard road.”
“We will do great things with this gift,” she told Gartzke.
“Even when people doubt you, even when they tell you it won’t work, you have to have the courage to push forward and do it anyway,” she told the crowd.
“You have to do the right thing, no matter the cost.”