SPRINGFIELD Although there might not seem to be much activity at the Bing Theater on Sumner Avenue, Brian Hale said that progress is being made in converting the former neighborhood movie theater into a multi-use arts center.
"We doing fairly well, but it's a slow process," Hale said, who is heading up the renovation project for the X Main Street Corporation, the Forest Park-based non-profit group that owns the building.
The first phase of the renovation has been focused on the lobby of the building, Hale explained. Once the lobby is completed that area can be used for small-scale performances, art exhibits, and, by using digital projection, the screening of movies.
Funds raised through activities presented in the lobby space would be used to finish the rest of the theater. Hale said that approximately $750,000 would be needed to completely finish the entire project.
Numerous improvements have to be made, though, before any of those activities can take place. Hale said a new heating and cooling system had to be installed and natural gas service had to be brought to the building. New restrooms facilities had to be built as well. The electrical service for the lobby also had to be replaced, he added.
If the rest of the renovation goes as planned, Hale believes the lobby area could be open by sometime in June. Hale credited state funding provided by State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera in helping make these renovations possible.
The lobby area will have facilities for limited food service for events and Hale said that Dan Higgins, the owner of the Blue Moon coffee shop that was across the street, would be helping the Bing out by lending furniture and some equipment.
The theater's marquee will be rehabilitated next month, Hale said.
Hale said he and Lynn Noland for the X Main Street Corporation had a meeting recently with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno who expressed his support for the project.
Hale acknowledged that finding funding is "tough in these uncertain times," and that once the new Web site is up at the end of the month -- www.bingartscenter.org -- the group will resume activities to raise awareness of the effort.
Citing the success of Studio 137 in Indian Orchard, Hale said the Bing would have a positive impact on the neighborhood when it's completed.