Imperial Theatre in Saint John needs about $1 million in repairs

Workers placed a safety net near the top of the Imperial Theatre building last year to prevent any of the masonry from falling on the sidewalk below. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC) (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

Saint John's Imperial Theatre's building façade needs an estimated $3 million in repairs.

An inspection over a year ago revealed the front of the Saint John theatre revealed deteriorating bricks and cracks in the terra cotta pieces.

Workers had to immediately set up a safety net near the top of the performing arts building to protect passersby from bits of brick breaking off.

The theatre's executive director Lee Bolton says the restoration work will be a costly and complicated undertaking.

"We are a nationally registered heritage building, meaning brick that used to be very common in 1912, brick in that [cream] colour, they don't make brick like that anymore. It essentially has to be specially manufactured," Bolton said in an interview Wednesday on Information Morning Saint John.

Imperial Theatre netting

The restoration will begin next month. (Imperial Theatre/Instagram)

"We can't go down to the corner building store and pick some up, it requires a lot of specialty materials and heritage masons to put it up."

The work involves completely removing and replacing brick from the top level, replacing some sections of brick and terra cotta at lower levels, repairing and repainting some brick, and other structural repairs.

The renovations are scheduled to begin in late April or May, and should take approximately one year to complete.

Bolton says the theatre has been fundraising for the past year to cover half the cost of repairs.

Funding commitments have come from both the federal and provincial governments, the theatre's foundation, corporate and individual donations and other foundations.

A public campaign, being launched on March 15, has a goal of the remaining $1.5 million needed for the repairs.

"We realize other fundraising campaigns are happening and the economy isn't the strongest, but on the upside people love the Imperial and have that attachment," Bolton said.

"We worked really hard to save it once, we want to make sure it's in good shape."

The Imperial theatre was slated for demolition in 1982, but former taxi driver Jack MacDougall bought the building for $1 and worked with the community to raise $1 million to restore it to its former glory.

The refurbished theatre was reopened in 1994.