Goodwill Theatre looks to lift curtain on history

By Perry Russom

April 22, 2014 Updated Apr 23, 2014 at 7:29 PM EDT

Johnson City, N.Y. (WBNG Binghamton) The Goodwill Theatre in Johnson City plans on developing a hotbed of creativity by restoring a century-old space.

"This project has a life of its own and it wants to happen," said Naima Kradjian, CEO of Goodwill Theatre Inc.

By 2018, the Goodwill Theatre on Willow Street in Johnson City is planning on having its opening night, Kradjian said.

Before that happens, a lot of work has to get done, but they're on their way.

"The fact that we now have the theater open for tours, people can really imagine what we're doing," said Kradjian.

The theater had one of those tours Tuesday night, showing off the future look of the 100-year-old building. The theater will sit between 900 and 950 people.

"A lot of the features are still there and it's really exciting to picture what it's going to look like when it comes back again," said David Hawley, president of the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier.

The restoration will cost $6.5 million. If they were to build the same project from scratch, it's estimated to cost between $50 million and $75 million.

So far, they've raised more than half of that restoration amount through federal and state grants.

Kradijan said what separates this theater from others is the history, details and acoustics.

What adds to the acoustics of the building are the rounded walls and dome. If patrons are in the back row and the actors on stage aren't wearing a microphone, their voices can still be heard.

They're looking to build more than a theater. They want an art culture for Johnson City that attracts young talent from Toronto, Philadelphia and Boston.

"We're also far enough away from New York City to be safe for someone to try out a new production," said Kradjian.

An estimated 65 jobs will be created at the theater when the entire project is complete.

With those jobs comes a boost for the local economy.

"For a while, people thought we were a little crazy. But now, they realize that, wow, this could really happen," said Kradjian.

All phases of the project are expected to be complete in the next 10 years.