An 80-year-old theater in Jasper that has been shuttered for nearly 15 years is getting a second lease on life. A group looking to restore the Astra Theater has landed a $400,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs for plans to turn it a multi-purpose cultural venue.
The theater, which opened in April 1936, operated until decline and increased competition led the owners to shut it down in 2002 and list it for sale. It remained on the market until the nonprofit group Next Act Inc. began a campaign to raise more than $750,000 to buy and restore the theater. The organization has raised around $200,000 that will be added to the grant through OCRA’s Community Development Block Grant program.
Next Act says the funding will allow it to rehab the theater’s exterior with a new roof, masonry repair, a restored neon sign and new electrical and HVAC systems. The curved storefront will be replaced with a more historically-appropriate version. The group says work will likely begin in the spring.
Next Act President Marc Steczyk says the organization still has "a long way to go with raising money for interior renovations," but says the grant "most definitely shortens our road."