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Capitol Theatre project lands $1 million donation but faces cash problems

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Published:   |   Updated: July 19, 2013 at 08:19 AM

CLEARWATER - The ongoing renovation of the 92-year-old Capitol Theatre building downtown faces unexpected cost overruns, many of them due to the aging structure's unexpected quirks.

Ruth Eckerd Hall, which has operated the facility since 2009, hopes a new major donation - and city dollars - will help fill in the gaps.

Wednesday, Ruth Eckerd announced that Geri Trautlein, 86, had given $1 million toward the restoration and expansion project in memory of her husband, Ray, who died in 2009. Trautlein once worked as a model for a department store in the adjacent Lokey building, which is being demolished as part of the theater's expansion. Her husband had always wanted to buy the building but couldn't think of a use for it, she said.

"He wanted that building," Trautlein said. "I thought, 'Now's the chance to get his name on it.' "

Trautlein's donation will not cover the project's immediate needs but will be divided and applied to annual budgets over the next three to five years, said Ruth Eckerd CEO Zev Buffman.

That still leaves the renovation project's cost overruns.

The project's estimated cost - not counting the buying of adjacent properties and utilities - was originally $7.1 million, said Buffman. Structural issues surfaced during renovations, leading Ruth Eckerd officials to ask the City of Clearwater for another $500,000, which the City Council may approve at a meeting tonight.

"There was never a concrete foundation poured," Buffman said. "Which is amazing ... that the building was still standing. We had no way of knowing that until we started cutting into the building."

At a Monday work session, council signaled their support for the additional funding, but not without offering pointed criticism.

"There should be no more surprises," said Councilman Jay Polglaze. "Everything should be known at this point. It's imperative that this budget stands from here on out."

The City Council will have a public hearing at City Hall, 112 S. Osceola Ave., at 6 p.m. to discuss the funding request.

kbradshaw@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7999

Twitter: @kbradshawTBO

Clearwater Gazette Editor Jane Bongo contributed to this report.

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