TURNAGE SOLD: Beaufort County Arts Council buys historic theaterPublished 6:30pm Thursday, September 5, 2013
Washington’s Turnage Theater has sold — to the nonprofit Beaufort County Arts Council.
BCAC Executive Director Joey Toler announced the purchase at Thursday night’s opening reception for an exhibit featuring Wilmington painter Elizabeth Darrow. This comes after officials with Wells Fargo informed Toler BCAC’s offer had been accepted Wednesday afternoon; 24 hours later, the due diligence process was started.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of the five banks that held the loan, and USDA, which guaranteed the loan,” said BCAC board chair John Tate. “They are taking a hit of tens of thousands of dollars (each).”
Tate, an attorney whose primary business is real estate transactions, has worked side by side with Toler to get the Turnage deal done. In June, BCAC made an offer for the restored theater in downtown Washington, right on the heels of another, better, offer from an out-of-state entertainment company. When negotiations between the banks and the first potential buyer broke down, BCAC stepped in with a second offer, Toler said.
“The USDA and the participating banks all had a preference for the theater going to a nonprofit that was well-established in the community,” Tate said. “One that had at least some government support.”
“We have that relationship already with the city and the county,” Toler added. “We were able to bring that to the table.”
The Turnage has a long history, one fraught with financial difficulties once the Main Street theater reopened in 2007. From 1996 to its rebirth, the early-20th century theater was painstakingly restored, in hopes that it would become a center for performing arts. But the U.S. economy taking a dive, combined with a large mortgage on the books, led to a final curtain call in December 2012.
BCAC doesn’t plan to repeat history, according to Toler. The new Turnage, under the stewardship of the arts council, will be an arts center where performing arts are just a part of a larger cultural picture.
“This is a really big step for the arts council; it’s a step we are not taking lightly. We have done a pile of homework. I’ve spoken to colleagues across the state, asking them ‘Is this wise?’” Toler said. “I feel like it’s good for us, good for the community —a real win/win.”
If all goes according to plan, the sale should be wrapped up by Sept. 27, Tate said.