La Grande’s Liberty Theatre Foundation is a big step closer to opening the downtown performing arts center following the announcement this week that The Ford Family Foundation has awarded a $225,000 grant to the non-profit project.

The grant will allow the foundation to forge ahead with the renovation project, said Michael Jaeger, president of the Liberty Theatre Foundation board.

“This significant contribution to the overall plan for theatre restoration puts the project on track to open sometime in late 2020,” Jaeger said. “The Ford Family grant will fund the electrical system, HVAC, plumbing and some reconstruction costs associated with the auditorium. It is the largest single sum of funds we have received and we are thrilled that this will put us over the top in our fundraising efforts for this phase.”

Thus far, the facade of the theatre has been remade so that it reflects the 1930s-era entrance, including the framework of the awning and, previously, the restored blade sign that adorns the front of the building. Inside, the lobby has been redesigned to accommodate concessions and a small meeting area venue as well as restroom access. The roof and bricks have been repaired and the ceiling has been covered with wallboard.

The next stages, Jaeger said, are to complete the ceiling restoration and fire suppression system. Once that is complete, the balance of the work to restore the theatre can be done.

“Once the theatre is ready for occupancy there will be many more projects ahead,” Jaeger said. “The balcony and the basement ‘green’ rooms are major projects that will be explored after the theatre has been opened. The foundation will continue to write grants and solicit community support so that the Liberty Theatre will once again be center stage and serve as La Grande’s living room.”

To celebrate the progress that has been made and the Ford Family grant award, the foundation is planning an open house in the theatre lobby the evening of Dec. 13.