A big step toward the renovation of the Melba Theatre was taken last week when Landmark Bank in Houston donated 00,000 to Downtown Houston Inc. for the project. At the event, it was announced that more than 00,000 had been raised by the organization toward the project.  Members and Landmark Bank officials gathered at the Houston icon last week to mark the occasion. From left: Elaine Campbell, City of Houston; David Hall, Landmark Bank commerical lender; Eric Wells, Houston banking center president; Jennifer WIlliams, Landmark Bank banking services manager;  Brad Gentry, Downtown Houston Inc. president; and Barbara White, Downtown Houston Inc. Back row: Delbert Campbell, Downtown Houston Inc., Verlin and Doris Altom, Downtown Houston Inc.; Kathy Richardson, Downtown Houston Inc. vice president; and Shari McCallister, Downtown Houston Inc.

A drive to raise funds for the renovation of the Melba Theatre and adjoining buildings has generated donations totaling more than half a million dollars, organizers announced this week.

Downtown Houston Inc. said the project garnered significant financial support in the last weeks of the year. Members made several presentations to potential donors and worked extensively with CPA and financial planning firms related to the availability of state tax credits available under the Neighborhood Assistance Program. Donors receive 70 cents for each dollar donated toward their state tax obligation and can also deduct the total donation from federal returns.

The project includes the Melba and commercial buildings on each side of it on Grand Avenue. The real estate deal will close before year’s end. A purchase agreement was reached with representatives of the trust of Kathleen Kelly Fiquet, which owns the buildings. Fiquet was the daughter of Bessie Kelly Womack Herrington, who constructed the movie house that opened in February 1938 and continued to be a social hub for generations. It has been idle since 1980.

“This is a significant step in the project,” explained Kathy Richardson, the vice president of the organization. “We’re really pleased with the support received and the excitement generated by this project. There are a lot of happy memories associated with the Melba in downtown Houston.”

Richardson said the most significant local donation came from Landmark Bank in Houston, which contributed $100,000 toward supporting the community project. Eric Wells, president of the Houston banking center, made the presentation last week. “Landmark has donated generously to our projects over the years,” Richardson said. “We’re really grateful for the support of the local bank, its management and board of directors. It says a lot when they reached out to us before being asked to assist.”

The organization in late 2013 submitted a thick application that detailed construction and remodeling plans, a business operating strategy and pledges of support from numerous businesses and organizations.

The Houston application received the maximum tax credit allocation allowed.

The same financing method was used by Downtown Houston Inc. for development of the Lone Star Plaza after a devastating Grand Avenue fire and a major rehabilitation of the former Haney Market that is today the Houston Visitors Center. The City of Houston later obtained grant funding that brought new lighting and sidewalks to the downtown business district.

The Melba project involves several entities that have expressed interest in staging shows and other events, as well as meetings. It will seat about 300. The Houston School District also does not have a stage for its students.

A second component also is a part of the project. Downtown Houston Inc. owns a building on Main Street north of the Lone Star Plaza that also will get a facelift. The Lone Star Plaza Annex includes space for the Houston Farmer Market to have refrigeration equipment and a commercial kitchen to teach residents skills that include canning. U.S. Rural Development awarded the group a $30,000 grant, a portion of that will be used for the equipment purchases.

Contributions are still being sought for the Melba project for such expenses as an audio-video system and other needs. Donors can contribute and receive a federal tax deduction. The group’s address is: Downtown Houston Inc., P.O. Box 170, Houston, Mo. 65483. Officers are: Brad Gentry, president; Kathy Richardson, vice president; and Vera Gladden, secretary-treasurer.

This is a significant step in the project. We’re really pleased with the support received and the excitement generated by this project. There are a lot of happy memories associated with the Melba in downtown Houston.”

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