A Dallas nonprofit has just hit a major milestone in its efforts to restore a long-defunct theater.
Forest Forward announced that some major gifts over the past year helped move the needle past the halfway mark of its $75.215 million campaign goal, The Dallas Morning News reported. These funds will be used to expand and restore the Forest Theater in South Dallas.
The organization received $4 million of taxpayer money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, $1 million each from the Constantin Foundation and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, $5 million from Communities Foundation of Texas, $500,000 from an anonymous donor, and other various donations.
Reaching this financial milestone ensures that the reconstruction work can begin this year. Project organizers are planning for the theater’s grand re-opening next December to coincide with the building’s 75th anniversary, per the DMN.
The Forest Theater, located at 1918 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., was originally opened in 1949 to serve middle-class white patrons in the area. However, the theater’s patronage shifted as more African-American families began moving into the neighborhood, and it became known as the “Colored” Forest Theater, according to the Preservation Dallas website.
The theater eventually closed in 1965 due to decreasing demand for tickets.
Forest Forward is a nonprofit established with the purpose of revitalizing the Forest Theater. The organization took ownership of the building in 2017 and has since undertaken efforts to restore it to its former glory.
However, the organization’s goal includes more than just refurbishing a building. It aims to reinvigorate the South Dallas area as a whole.
“With this infusion of funding, Forest Forward is strongly positioned as a catalyst for sustainable community and economic development in sunny South Dallas,” said Elizabeth Wattley, CEO of Forest Forward, in a press release. “Our strategy is focused on holistic and inclusive revitalization including arts education, cradle-to-college support, building of mixed-income housing, and the restoration of the historic Forest Theater.”
“The transformational infusion of $75.215 million into the heart of zip code 75215 will ignite healthy neighborhood revitalization and create a new vibrant core for the City of Dallas,” Forest Forward stated on its website.
“It’s about the investment in the community, and the way [Wattley] and her team have gone about it, really centering the community in the middle of it,” said Wende Burton, Forest Forward’s chief philanthropy officer, according to D Magazine. “It’s not being done just for a place, but for the people who live in the place,” she continued.
Forest Forward’s restoration plans for the site include a performance hall that can seat 1,000 people, a studio theater, and a 13,000-square-foot arts education center, D Magazine reported.