The Cascade Theatre was constructed in downtown Redding in 1935 as a 1,348-seat movie palace and vaudeville stage. One of the few theatres built during the heart of the depression, the Cascade Theatre was a magnificent example of art deco architecture in California, complete with gold and silver gilded walls, period chandeliers, ornate plasterwork, a grand neon facade and marquee and beautiful murals. But, like many downtown theatres of its era, the Cascade struggled to survive during the 1990s with the rise of shopping mall-based multiplex cinemas. In 1997, the Cascade ceased operating and its doors were boarded.
Restoration of the Cascade Theatre was completed on August 14, 2004 and the theatre was reopened as a regional non-profit performing arts center. The restoration was carried out in a way that honored the heritage of the building and was consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties while providing the functionality of a modern professional performing arts facility – complete with state-of-the-art sound, lighting and theatre technology. The Cascade Theatre is now capable of hosting a wide range of arts and cultural events, including theater, concerts, dance and film presentations.
Restoration of the Cascade Theatre was undertaken through an innovative partnership between Southern Oregon University and its public radio network, Jefferson Public Radio (JPR); the JPR Foundation, a private non-profit group organized to support JPR’s activities; and the Cascade Theatre Restoration Steering Committee, a committee comprised of regional business and civic leaders dedicated to raising funds for the project.
Southern Oregon University (SOU) is a liberal arts educational institution and a member of the Oregon University System. Its main campus is located in Ashland, Oregon, 15 miles north of the Oregon/California border, and home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. SOU’s regional service area includes Siskiyou and Shasta Counties in California. It has served this area for over two decades collaborating with regional high schools and community colleges, coordinating credit transfers for community college students and providing public radio service as an outreach component of its public service mission. SOU’s public radio network, Jefferson Public Radio, operates more public radio stations in California than any other public radio entity. JPR operates 20 non-commercial radio stations and the largest network of public radio translators in the nation, serving a 15-county region of southern Oregon and northern California from its studios in Ashland and Redding. JPR has served Shasta County residents since 1991 broadcasting its Classics & News Service on 90.9FM and its Rhythm & News Service on 89.7FM. In 2006, JPR inaugurated its News & Information Service in Redding on 1330AM.
Some of JPR’s core activities and accomplishments include:
The first public radio operation in the nation to broadcast three fully separate and distinct program streams. JPR’s current services include; Classics and News (classical music with NPR and regional news); Rhythm and News (jazz, folk, blues, and world music with NPR and regional news) and News and Information (news from the world’s public radio networks including the BBC, CBC, NPR and PRI).
Publication of the largest circulation newsmagazine in the region. Each month JPR’s Jefferson Monthly is read by over 10,000 residents of the region.
Operation of southern Oregon’s first Internet service. JEFFNET serves over 2,000 online members and is the region’s only non-profit public Internet service, striving to use emerging technologies to facilitate the exchange of civic information and ideas between people of the region and support the Internet activities of the region’s governments, educational institutions and non-profit organizations.
Presentation of hundreds of concerts, lectures and events which enhance the educational and cultural life of the region.
JPR began leasing studios in downtown Redding in 1993. In late 1998, JPR management became interested in securing a permanent studio location in Redding by purchasing a small commercial building in downtown Redding. The Cascade Theatre contained ample commercial space capable of being adapted for this use and was identified as a building that met its technical and physical criteria. After consulting with a variety of Redding’s community leaders, SOU and JPR concluded that purchasing the Cascade would enable them to achieve their primary objective of creating new studios and also help the community accomplish something for which it cared deeply: preservation and restoration of the Cascade Theatre.
Financing to purchase the Cascade and undertake initial restoration costs was provided by the Oregon University System, which issued revenue bonds backed by a business plan jointly developed by JPR and local Redding business leaders.
The lead organization for this project has been the JPR Foundation, a tax-exempt non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Jefferson Public Radio’s service to the region. Title to the Cascade is held by Southern Oregon University, acting by and through the State of Oregon Board of Higher Education, which executed a 30-year lease with the JPR Foundation to restore and operate the facility.
Project Approach & Design
In October, 1998 JPR began assessing the feasibility of this project with the assistance of the League of Historic American Theatres, based in Baltimore, MD. Members of the JPR management team toured 17 restored theatres and interviewed the architects responsible for the restoration process and the staff in charge of operating those facilities. Extensive telephone interviews with operators of small town restored theatres were also conducted. Even though significant obstacles exist in restoring historic theatres as performing arts venues, such as undersized stages and antiquated HVAC systems, those who have been involved in theatre restoration projects unequivocally recommend this approach. Generally, the restoration of a downtown historic theatre into multi-purpose performing arts venue has three advantages:
By using an existing historic building, the community turns an unproductive structure into a productive community asset.
Renovation of an existing building is significantly less costly than new construction.
Because historic theatres have deep emotional roots in a community, both restoration efforts and operating these facilities are generally widely supported by the public.
During the restoration process, the building’s structure was improved to meet current seismic standards, the theatre’s stage was made deeper so it can accommodate a wider range of performances, new dressing rooms and green rooms were constructed, new handicapped-accessible restrooms were added, electrical and mechanical systems were updated, seating was restored, new rigging systems and stage curtains were installed, modern theatre lighting and sound systems were added, the theatre’s interior finishes were restored to their original condition, first floor retail spaces were renovated, and second floor office space was converted to a balcony lobby.
Restoration of the Cascade Theatre and adapting it for use as a performing arts venue has had three primary goals for the Shasta County region and Redding community:
Historic Preservation -- The Cascade Theatre is one of Redding’s most prominent historical buildings. It has been recognized as both an important statewide and national historic resource and is listed on the California Registry of Historic Resources and the National Register of Historic Places. In March, 2000 the Cascade received an Art Deco Society of California Preservation Award, along with the Rafael Theatre in San Rafael and the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Restoring the Cascade Theatre has preserved one of Redding’s few remaining landmark buildings.
Supporting Artistic & Cultural Opportunities in the Community -- After extensive interviews with arts and cultural groups in the community, it became clear that these groups were limited by not having a professional venue suitable for their activities. The existing presentation facilities in the community were inadequate in terms of size, availability and technical specifications. Restoring the Cascade Theatre has created a home to a variety of programs presented by the region’s many fine local arts organizations as well as music, dance, repertory film and theatrical performances that didn’t take place in Redding because a suitable facility didn’t exist.
Community Development/Economic Revitalization -- In hundreds of cities across the nation, the development of historic theatres has produced enormous economic benefits for downtown districts -- bringing people back downtown, expanding downtown activity after 5pm and stimulating the growth of restaurants and other businesses supporting the activities of the theatre. Restoring the Cascade Theatre has been identified as a central component of revitalizing Redding’s downtown in the "Downtown Redding Specific Plan" which has been adopted by the City of Redding as a blueprint for reviving Redding’s downtown business district. Restoration of the Cascade Theatre supports economic development efforts currently underway in this region and also serves as a catalyst for future economic revitalization.
The total cost of the restoration, including acquisition of the building and restorative work, was $5.65 million.