Victory Theatre rehab in Holyoke will begin with demolition next door

  • A former funeral home 134 Chestnut St. in Holyoke, located next to the Victory Theatre, is targeted for demolition. The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, or MIFA, bought the theater from the city in 2009. Demolishing the adjacent property, which MIFA also owns, will make way for an annex with more dressing rooms, office space and a loading dock. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Donald Sanders of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts stands inside the historic Victory Theatre, in Holyoke, in 2011. MIFA plans to renovate and reopen the theater. —GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/24/2020 3:59:35 PM

HOLYOKE — Holyokers may soon see construction work beginning at the Victory Theatre, where the demolition of a nearby building will soon be the first step in the rehabilitation of the century-old Broadway-style theater.

The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, or MIFA, bought the theater from the city in 2009. MIFA recently received all its final approvals from the city Planning Board and Historical Commission to begin demolishing an adjacent former funeral home at 134 Chestnut St — which it bought at the end of 2019 — in order to build an annex with more dressing rooms, office space and a loading dock.

“It’s the first step in the actual construction project, and we couldn’t do anything until that happened,” Donald Sanders, MIFA’s executive artistic director, said of the demolition, which he added should be finished by Christmas.

The 1,600-seat Victory Theater, at the corner of Suffolk and Chestnut streets, opened in 1920. At the time it was a playhouse and movie emporium. In 1931, it became exclusively a movie house until it closed in 1979.

MIFA has put the cost of the total rehabilitation at $46 million, and Sanders said his organization has identified $31 million in funding for the project.

“The fact of the matter is, we still have some money to raise,” Sanders said. “We’re closing the gap.”

MIFA’s moving forward with the demolition is big news, Sanders said, even though it was delayed by the pandemic. And as the project advances, he said the pandemic has made it even more obvious the need for more theater venues across the Pioneer Valley.

“It has made me feel even more the need to have live theaters,” Sanders said. “People are going to have such a hunger to go back.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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