Coos Bay has something to teach other Oregon communities about not throwing in the towel, the power of community volunteers and the value of its historic places.
In 2011, the beloved Egyptian Theatre was officially listed as one of Oregon’s most endangered places by Restore Oregon. City leaders reached out to us for support after the building was deemed structurally deficient and unsuitable for occupancy. An initial rehabilitation estimate of $3.7 million made saving the theater seem unlikely, even for the most committed supporters.
But vision and planning overpowered skepticism and dire predictions. Referrals were made to consultant George Kramer, who debunked the $3.7 million figure. Local leaders assembled a strategic plan. The Egyptian Theatre Preservation Association rallied a small army for fundraising, and Restore Oregon provided a seed grant for a market feasibility study to get the ball rolling. This in turn generated more grant funding, and the momentum grew from there.
Almost anywhere we went across the state, when we mentioned working with the Egyptian Theatre, someone said, “I love that place!” By 2012, outsiders could see that Coos Bay was on track to bring the theater back to life, but no one — including Restore Oregon — anticipated the generosity of the response would enable it to be done so quickly.
The passion, dedication and sacrifice that has poured into the Egyptian over the past three years is nothing short of heroic. While Coos Bay and the South Coast once again have a landmark theater to be proud of, the community has an even greater asset in the people that made it happen. If this citizen ingenuity, collaboration and vision can be sustained, the Egyptian will be the first of many downtown success stories. Congratulations!