2016 Fox Status Update
First we’d like to thank our supporters for their patience. We apologize for the lack of communication this year. We lost a vital member of our team last year who handled much of our communication. If you didn’t know Stan Kelton you missed out on knowing a great guy and loyal Fox supporter. We are currently looking at options that will help us keep in touch with the public more regularly.
Last year we celebrated our 90th birthday in May which coincided with the completion of $500,000 worth of restoration work that took over a year of planning and execution. We held an event called “Speakeasy Days” over Memorial Weekend and had thousands of people through the theater all enjoying seeing the wonderfully restored ceiling and decorative paint work around the proscenium by the renowned restoration painting company, Evergreen Architectural Arts out of New York. This really was the first opportunity to see what a restored Fox Fullerton will ultimately be. We also relit the restored roof top sign which was made possible by nearly $100k of in-kind donation by Bivar Corporation and many hours of community volunteering. Friday night concluded by singing happy birthday to the theater. The following day included live music, vintage cars, movie sets for pictures, G-men arresting and jailing our patrons and great food from Heroes.
Then it was off and running to the “Bootlegger’s Ball” in November which was just after the “Fullerton Cares Comedy Show for Autism”. Both were very successful. Since then we’ve been in a bit of a quiet planning phase. We are at a place now where virtually everything the Fox needs to open requires professional contractors, architects and artisans. So, we’ve been updating our plan and cost estimates with our architects. They’ve been out to the Fox to see what’s been done and what needs to be done in order to put a number on it. We split the project in to two phases. The first is to complete the work required to receive full occupancy from the city. The second phase will finish the big picture items thus completing the restoration.
Looking back, after a stellar job by Fullerton Heritage and their 10,000 signature campaign, Chuck Estes, Jane Reifer and hundreds of others saving the Fox followed by a massive recession, we started at the end of 2010 on an $8 million renovation funded by a loan from the Fullerton RDA and our own nearly $2m grant from CCHE. This required our tenants to move out which left the Foundation with no revenue for operations which means our dedicated board acts as janitor, secretary and anything else that is needed. That work finished at the end of 2012. We engaged in planning for another grant from CCHE and began to look forward towards rental income returning. Due to major complications from Redevelopment going away, it took much longer to procure a tenant than we had expected. We are just now starting to receive lease revenue from the Firestone building leases where Dripp Coffee and now Stadtgarten are up and running. The challenging news is it is not nearly half what we were receiving before as the tenant had to put in additional work to the Firestone building which is being paid back interest free out of their rent. Plus, during the construction plans were changed due to unknown conditions in the structure plus the fact the project was simply underfunded so we weren’t able to complete the project as planned.
We continued working on the new CCHE grant requirements which we almost didn’t meet. State grants require us to spend the money first and then they reimburse us. Well, We’re fortunate and thankful for some “out of the box” thinking by our board and we came up with a plan that succeeded and we finished the work funded by the grant.(The same work seen at the memorial weekend event in 2015)
We hear often questions like, “Why is it taking so long?” Or, “Why aren’t there more events at the Fox?” Other Fox theaters like Oakland or Riverside were fully funded by their respective Redevelopment Agencies. (Basically 100% government funds) Or Pomona, which was purchased by an owner who funded its restoration for their own business use. When we made the deal with Fullerton RDA, the scope of work was designed to get the red tag off the theater and the rental properties ready for tenants to come in and do their improvements and open. Circumstances being what they were we didn’t reach that goal. That also means we’re limited as to the events we can have until we complete the work that would give us full occupancy. To have an event with over 50 people, we have to pay for port-o-potties, four fire personnel for four hours minimum and valet parking. This adds thousands of dollars to the event costs before we even get to the real costs. Add to that the simple fact of our impact on our neighbors due to parking constraints. So, we’ve chosen to do what we can given the circumstances and in the meantime we are planning for a major capital campaign. In this effort we have spent the last 8 months working with our architects and consulting with a fundraiser. We can report at this time that the estimated cost to “achieve occupancy” ranges from $1.2m to $1.5m. The cost to finish the whole plan is a total of $25m which may seem like a lot but consider that it includes a 22,000 sq.ft. addition on the parking lot side at almost $10m and technology at $6m plus things like HVAC, electricity and plumbing, new seats and more. We’ve spoken to financiers who are interested in loaning what we can’t raise based on our revised business plan which is more profitable than the original. And we have spoken to operators like Golden Voice, AEG and Live Nation who are all interested in operating at the Fox Fullerton. Finally, a sort of “icing on the cake” is at the end of the project there are historic tax credits the Fox is eligible for ranging from $3m to $6m. This effectively lowers our overall costs giving us that much more equity.
Our mission is to bring a more mature venue to downtown without having to extend our hand for donations and actually give back to the community by having lots of for profit activity onsite allowing us to cover all expenses and even to fund some nice community activities. Most business endeavors fail due to lack of planning. So, as we continue with planning and clarifying the path forward we ask for your patience in this “quiet phase”. Subsequently, as we most certainly will need it, we hope we can rely on your help and support in a renewed effort to finish the Fox Fullerton. The Fox has been with us for over 90 years with nothing happening for almost 20 years after it closed in 1987 other than falling into tragic disrepair before the community saved it in 2004. And though the project may feel “behind”, we can assure everyone the proper steps are being taken to prepare for the theatre’s next 90 years and beyond.
The Fox Board