U.S. grant to boost R.I. arts center

Revamp includes new marquee

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The downtown Providence Performing Arts Center has received a $900,000 U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development grant to restore the exterior of its historic 3,200-seat theater as well as for interior needs. The primary focus of the restoration will be a new marquee and vertical sign in keeping with the theater’s original design by Chicago theater architects Rapp & Rapp.

The theater, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, began life in 1928 as a Loew’s Movie Palace. In 1975, physical deterioration and declining income threatened its existence and it was scheduled for demolition.

It was purchased by a consortium of local businesses with financial assistance from the state of Rhode Island and the city of Providence, and was incorporated as a nonprofit performing arts center in 1978. Under the presidency of J.L. (Lynn) Singleton, the theater underwent a $7 million stage-house expansion program in 1995.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration contributed $1 million toward that expansion, which made it possible for the theater to book such large-scale touring Broadway shows as “The Phantom of the Opera” and the upcoming “Beauty and the Beast,” flourishing in the process.

Singleton has expressed “no doubt that when the new marquee is installed our attendance will increase” even more as it becomes a landmark attraction for Providence’s developing downtown arts and entertainment district.

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