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Quincy's historic "Wolly" theater eyes a second act

By Daniel Kobialka
On May 27, 2010

4/2/10 QUINCY -- Quincy's 84-year-old theater, "the Wolly," was closed seven years ago because of ill-repair, but Mayor Thomas Koch said its restoration will attract tourists and provide residents with a performing arts venue for movies, concerts and community performances.

The Wolly, located at 14 Beale St. in Wollaston Center, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Executive director of Discover Quincy and the Quincy Film Bureau Mark J. Carey leads the "Save the Wolly" campaign in the hopes of bringing the historic theater back to life.

Carey said the restoration proposal has received tremendous support from Quincy residents and the Mayor's office.

"We want to bring a lot of juice to the table," Carey said. "It needs a full restoration."

The Wolly has been a staple in Wollaston Center, and a restored theater could provide a significant financial boost to the city, Quincy's Director of Policy Chris Walker said.

"Wollaston Center is one of the most important business districts in Quincy outside of our downtown," Walker said. "If done right, a rejuvenated Wolly will completely transform the Wollaston Center neighborhood."

Mayor Koch said he thinks theater renovations could help attract tourists to Quincy.

"[A new theater] will mean jobs for our residents, a safe place for folks to enjoy on a regular basis and a strong engine for new tax growth," Koch said. "In a City like Quincy, consensus is not easy to come by, but the idea of restoring the theater has received overwhelming support."

Real estate developer Street-Works LLC purchased the theater last June, and is mapping out a strategy to restore the historic venue, Walker said.

"We secured an investor to essentially put a hold on the building," Walker said. "We are now working privately with other potential investors to study the full feasibility of redeveloping the theater. When that's done, we expect to have a full business plan, a renovation plan, and non-profit organization ready to go to begin the actual work."

Once the plan is created, the Wollaston Theatre Foundation can begin fund raising to help reopen the theater, according to Carey.

Carey said North Quincy native and Hollywood producer Kris Meyer will lead the fundraising efforts. Meyer's high-profile status will help attract actors and celebrities to the restoration efforts, according to Carey.

"The first million is always the toughest," Carey said. "Once we get more details and have the property secured, we'll start fundraising."

A restored Wolly could host Dropkick Murphys, James Taylor, and even a Quincy film festival in the future, Carey said.

According to Walker, it will take at least three years for the theater to be reopened, and perhaps longer depending on the extent of renovations that will be required.

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