Yam Theater renovation funds approved

By Tony Parra

The Yam Theater may once again be full of life like it was in the 1950s after United States congress members took a step toward allocating $200,000 to renovate the building this week.

The Senate on Thursday approved the fiscal year 2006 spending bill that funds the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has $200,000 included in it for the Yam Movie Palace.

“It’s a community project with collaboration from the city,” Greg Erf of the Portales Main Street Organization said. “We were looking for a project to get people to the downtown area.”

The Yam Movie Palace building is proposed as a multi-purpose theater that could act as a place for weekend plays, a dinner theater and showing classic movies.

The Yam Movie Palace renovation started out with private donations more than three years ago. PMO members went into an agreement with the City of Portales so that the building would be owned by the city and managed by the PMO.

“Portales’ downtown revitalization wouldn’t be complete without the restoration of the Yam Movie Palace and I am pleased the funding included in this bill will help them in their efforts,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said in a press release.

Pres. George W. Bush still needs to sign off on the bill. Erf said hopefully the $200,000 will be in by April. Erf said the money would be used to complete the second phase of the project, which is work on the bathrooms, heating units, air conditioning units and roof.

Portales City Manager Debi Lee filled out the application and did the paperwork on the grant request.

“I’m very optimistic that with state and federal dollars we’ll be able to receive the $1.2 million to complete the project,” Lee said. “I’m hopeful we’ll receive the $200,000 in 2006 and we’ll work on it quickly after we receive it.”

Lee is delighted with the renovation to the downtown area and the new businesses opening up such as: The Territorial Restaurant, attorney Eric Dixon’s new offices, NoWhereElse unique arts store and district attorney’s office officials who are looking to expand into another building into the downtown area to go with their Roosevelt County Courthouse office.

There is also streetscaping work being done currently to lay down new sidewalk, put up light fixtures and plant trees in the downtown area, said Lee.

Erf mentioned the facade improvement fund which is set up through the city and people can apply for money from the fund to pay for construction work on the facades of their downtown businesses.

Before that was in place though, PMO members were able to purchase the building and raise enough money to improve the facade at the Yam in the first phase of renovation. Erf said project progression is key in being able to receive funds.

“You have to be able to show progression when requesting funding,” Erf said. “The more you can demonstrate the work that’s being done the more helpful it is in requesting grant money.”

Erf said in all there are four phases to the Yam Movie Palace project and initially the goal was to complete construction on the building by 2010. He said the $200,000 may help move the timeline for completion to an earlier day.

“We may be able to get it done by 2008,” Erf said. “Being able to get more money for the other phases will determine that. It’s the biggest chunk we’ve received.”