Adler Theatre Grand Re-Opening

The Adler Theatre shines in downtown Davenport.  Davenport Central High School performing arts rehearsals and shows will be moved to the Adler after action Monday by the Davenport School Board. (FILE PHOTO)

John Schultz

The nonprofit organization that oversaw the $14 million renovation of the Adler Theatre in 2006 wants to return ownership back to the city of Davenport at a “worst-case scenario” price of $2.5 million.

Greg Schermer, chairman of RiverCenter for the Performing Arts Inc., sent the city a letter in December outlining the request and addressed it during a City Council budget workshop last weekend. Ownership transfer would be in late 2014.

Mayor Bill Gluba said the city needs to consider a path toward sustainability for the Adler and other city venues. A purchase plan would have to go through the budget process next year and be approved by the council.

The cost of returning the theater to city ownership likely would be paid for through bonds, Alderman Gene Meeker, At Large, said.

Schermer stressed Tuesday that the $2.5 million referenced in the letter and presentation is likely to be smaller when the property transfer occurs, but it was presented as a “worst-case scenario.”

“Our goal would be to return the Adler Theatre to the city unencumbered at the smallest possible expense to the city,” he said. “That is our goal as the board of the RCPA.”

The amount the city pays would cover the remaining costs of the complex tax-credit funding model that made the stage expansion and other renovations possible. Schermer said he thinks fundraising and some forgiveness from the tax-credit holders will bring down the amount the city would pay.

Theater ownership was transferred to the nonprofit in 2006 so it would be eligible for historic tax credits that were involved in funding the back-stage renovations. Those tax credits were unavailable under city ownership.

The $14 million renovation project was mostly behind-the-scenes. It expanded the theater’s stage so it can handle bigger productions, improved the sound system and lighting, relocated dressing rooms, installed a new freight elevator, improved lighting and rigging and replaced the heating and cooling system.

The Adler hosted 13,266 patrons in 2006, but that number grew in 2012 to 93,099, Schermer said. The theater posted a modest profit of $9,438 in 2012. Estimated profit in 2012 under city ownership, eliminating certain expenses, would have been $86,873, according to a RiverCenter for the Performing Arts study.

The nonprofit was to possess the theater for seven years. The timing is related to the expiration of eligibility requirements of the various tax credits, Schermer said.

“The board wants to give the city as much time as possible so we don’t disrupt anything,” he said.

The mayor said he has four approaches for the council to consider for the Adler funding.

At the top of the list is funding through a community-owned casino. He also would like to see a regional commitment toward arts funding through hotel-motel taxes, similar to a model called Bravo used in the Des Moines area in which various government entities pool their resources. Privatization also should be considered, as well as looking at a longer repayment period of the city’s model.

“We’ll get it done, but the Bravo model is the best option,” Gluba said, referring to Des Moines’ regional arts funding plan. “We can’t tax retirees to help pay for these amenities.”

Meeker was director of DavenportOne’s Downtown Partnership Division during the River Renaissance project. He called the complex funding model that paid for the Adler renovations “ingenious.”

“It was an exciting program that did its job,” Meeker said. “We have a beautiful building now and it is well-received by the community.

“It is time to bring it back under city ownership. It is time for the Adler to come home.”

The Adler renovations were part of River Renaissance revitalization effort funded in part with a $20 million Vision Iowa grant. River Renaissance included renovations to the Redstone Building and construction of the Figge Art Museum and skybridge.