Jefferson Center says major repairs, substantial funding needed

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 7:01 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Jefferson Center has hosted nearly 2,000 performances over the past 30 years with more than one million people attending. But the organization says major repairs are needed. And it’s asking the city of Roanoke for substantial support.

Jefferson Center Executive Director Cyrus Pace delivered an urgent message to members of Roanoke City Council Monday afternoon.

“Jefferson Center has one to two years of useful life left, unless there is timely investment from the city,” Pace said.

Pace said Jefferson Center has lived up to its promise, since the old Jefferson High School was saved and the auditorium was renovated 30 years ago. But the 131,000-square-foot building is 100 years old, and many of the systems that were installed in the 1990s are now reaching the end of their useful life.

“The amount is scary; at the same time it’s urgent,” Pace said in an interview with WDBJ7.

He explained why Jefferson Center needs an immediate infusion of $250,000, and $1 million a year for six years to pay for needed capital improvements.

“These are fire code issues. These are safety issues, and really just comfort issues in terms of HVAC that have to be solved, which is why our request included a $250,000 immediate disbursement in addition to the longer term commitment of a million every year for six years,” Pace said.

“It’s clear to everyone that our organization is never going to be able to develop the kind of surplus necessary to take care of that level of capital need, so it’s a necessity for moving forward and continuing to use this building in a viable way.”

City Council did not make a commitment to fund the capital improvements during Monday’s meeting, but Pace said he was pleased with officials’ willingness to discuss the Jefferson Center’s immediate and long-term needs.

“And I have every faith that we will all come together at a table and figure out a way for this to move forward,” Pace said, “because I would be surprised if people don’t understand that the work happening in this building is important enough to protect it.”