Reg Lenna Center For Arts Renovations Complete

The new concession area inside the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, which includes the new Buffalo Bill Billboard room. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

“Let’s All Go to the Lobby” is a famous commercial jingle that plays in theaters prior to a movie to advertise concessions, but now it might be a new way for Jamestown area residents to mention why they should visit the newly renovated Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.

During the $4.5 million renovation project that was finished Nov. 9, the most public viewable change to the complex is the redesign of the theater’s lobby, located at 116 E. Third St. Prior to the project, the concession stand was in the middle of the lobby and the area had two different floor levels. After the renovations, there is now one level and the concession stand is no longer in the middle of the lobby.

“I’ve only heard positive news,” said Kathleen Eads, Reg executive director. “I’ve heard how the lobby is prettier now and more practical.”

Along with the new lobby, which includes the new box office and concession stand, the seven-building Reg complex is now more connected, starting with how the theater lobby opens up into the new Buffalo Bill Billboard room, which is next to the new Corner Cafe.

Len Barry, Reg marketing and communications director, said when there is a performance, they open the area up so the theater is connected to the new grab-and-go food location.

The new Buffalo Bill Billboard room houses the famous 1878 poster and includes tables, chairs and couches so people can eat a salad or a sandwich while viewing the oldest existing billboards in the United States.

The poster was originally pasted on an exterior building wall on Pine Street in 1878 to advertise a play about Buffalo Bill Cody, which was rediscovered in 2002 behind a crumbling wall.

“The poster now is closer to eye-level height instead of sitting up high,” Eads said about the poster, which used to be above the entrance to the theater.

Eads said prior to the renovations some of the buildings were connected and some weren’t. Now, she said there is a clearer path around the complex.

“It is fun to bring people through who knew what the building looked like before,” she said.

There is more Reg employee efficiency as well following the renovations. Barry said before the staff was spread throughout the complex, but now there is enough space for employees in their new office space, which improves how they communicate with one another. Eads said their still getting moved into their new space, but everyone is adapting well to their new surroundings.

“We’re definitely enjoying our new heated sidewalk,” she said.

Changes to the Reg also included the new WRFA studios. The Reg’s radio station, 107.9 WRFA, was expanded into three new on-air studios constructed in a multimedia studio on the third floor.

“The renovations exponentially increase our ability,” said Dennis Drew, WRFA general manager. “It was all possible thanks to great support from the foundations and the community.”

The renovation project included moving the 3rd on 3rd Gallery from the third floor to where the studio gallery was located. Along with local art displayed on the walls, the gallery has tables where people can sit and discuss featured artist.

The project will also include Americans With Disabilities Act improvements, infrastructure enhancements, safety upgrades and renovated apartment space. The general contractor and construction management team for the project is Lehigh Construction Group of Buffalo.

Funding for the project came from several sources. The Reg revitalization project was one of 10 projects that received funding through the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative program. Reg officials were funded $1.5 million through the DRI program for the renovation project.

Reg officials also secured local funding for the project from various foundations in the amount of $3.2 million including $1.5 million from the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation; $900,000 from the Gebbie Foundation; and $850,000 from the Lenna Foundation.

Eads said one-third of the budget for the renovations was spent on features that won’t be seen by the public, but was essential to the safety of the building. She said a new sprinkler system was installed throughout the building, which adds more protection to the buildings that are about 130 years old. She added the new safety system also ensures more protection for the former Palace Theatre.

“I want the community to come in and take a look around and celebrate our improvements,” Eads said. “They’re improvements for the community, too.”

Eads anticipates a public reopening celebration for the Reg in May of 2019.