A New Direction for Downtown Theaters

In 2012, the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation purchased the Capital and Capri theaters, located at 229 and 231 East Main, after the commanding buildings had fallen into disrepair. As part of its commitment to the revitalization of downtown, ORLF worked with placemaking experts to gather community input and to develop a feasible and sustainable restoration plan for the buildings.

After extensive and diligent exploration of the options presented for the restoration project coined Studio 229, the ORLF Board made the difficult decision to not move forward with project at its November board retreat.

Multiple reasons are credited with the project reversal – many of them budgetary.  The project faced significantly higher than expected construction phase costs. Historic Tax Credits, which were initially anticipated to be a primary source of funding for the project, presented unanticipated hurdles. These hurdles, coupled with the other community fundraising efforts underway in Ottumwa, lead to fear that simultaneous multi-million-dollar fundraising efforts could result in a lack of success for any project.

Covid 19 created additional operational and financial challenges around the project that could not have been predicted in the early planning phases of Studio 229. Building a space focused on gathering, in a time when we cannot, garners concerns regarding ongoing sustainability.   The pandemic has also caused vulnerability to many local businesses, including the Bridgeview Center.  This has elevated concern that this new space could have the potential to be cannibalistic in a time when our current venues need all the support they can get from our community to weather the crisis.

To date, significant investment has been made into the buildings, which have both received a major facelift. The façade of The Ottumwa received regional attention, by earning the 2018 American Institute of Architects’ Central States Design Excellence Honor Award in Historic Preservation. In addition to the visible exterior work, the Legacy Foundation has also replaced the roofs on both buildings, completed mold and asbestos abatement and cleared the interiors. “The buildings are structurally sound and ready for someone to come in and bring their ideas to life in the 20,000 square feet of space they provide,” Heather Larson, Communications and Special Projects Manager for the Legacy Foundation said.

“We know that the community was excited about the idea of seeing these two buildings in our downtown district coming back to life, as were we,” stated ORLF President, Kelly Genners. “While we cannot move forward in the way we initially planned, I can provide assurance that we are firmly rooted in finding the right buyers who are committed to seeing Ottumwa’s downtown continue to thrive.”

Inquiries can be made to Heather Larson at 641-455-5260.