Wanting to invest in local cultural efforts, the Grove Park Foundation purchased the property in 2017. (Photo courtesy of the Grove Park Foundation.)

By Hannah E. Jones

After sitting empty for years, the historic Grove Theatre on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway is on track to become the Grove Park Performing and Cultural Arts Center. Last week, the Grove Park Foundation received $2 million from the Bank of America and Chick-fil-A to fund this project.

The announcement was made on April 26. (L to R) Bank of America’s Wendy Stewart, Gavin McGuire of the Grove Park Foundation and Carol Waddy with Chick-fil-A. (Photo courtesy of the Grove Park Foundation.)

The Foundation’s mission is to revitalize the Grove Park neighborhood and improve quality of life in the community with a focus on housing, education and career opportunities as well as prioritizing holistic community wellness. In recent years, the Foundation partnered with the Atlanta Public Schools to open KIPP Woodson Park Academy and teamed up with Columbia Residential to build the 110-unit Canopy at Grove Park.

“We want to make sure that, from life expectancy to socioeconomics to quality of life, you’re not hindered by your zip code,” Executive Director Gavin McGuire told SaportaReport. “We want to make sure that people understand that you can stay within Grove Park and have the amenities and things that you need to be successful.”

The 618-seat theater opened in 1941 and closed in 1969. Seeking to invest in the local cultural fabric, the Foundation purchased the property in 2017, spending about $1 million.

The new Grove Park Performing and Cultural Arts Center will serve as a marketplace for small businesses and host cultural and community events. The 10,000-square-foot building will include performance and studio space, offices and a health and wellness cafe. Through SouthFace’s GoodUse program, facility and operational upgrades will be made to improve the building’s efficiency — saving both money and resources. 

For McGuire, this is a signal of investment in the community. The development is especially poignant as the theater was segregated for some time and, while the building had many different uses, it was most recently a pawn shop.

“When it was segregated, a lot of members of our community wouldn’t be able to access it. I’m happy and excited that this iteration of the work will be an inclusive design and welcoming to all,” McGuire said. “In the last iteration, it was a pawn shop. Looking at a sore spot or blight and being able to uplift it as a theater and performing arts space is truly transformational.”

“From colors in the building to flooring, we’re always looking to get the voice of the community — making sure they’re informed as we build and grow,” McGuire said. (Photo courtesy of the Grove Park Foundation.)

Throughout the planning process, the team has held community visioning meetings for resident input, ranging from design to programming. McGuire follows the saying: “Don’t do anything for me without me.”

The team sees this as a space for residents to spend time with each other while enjoying arts and culture programming. McGuire also hopes it serves as a space to inspire young kids and expose them to different career pathways.

“When you look at healthy and thriving communities — in addition to housing, economic development, education, health and wellness and jobs — [you see] diverse entertainment options, places for neighbors to gather and cultural enrichment for youth and families,” McGuire said. 

Construction will likely begin in early 2024 and, according to McGuire, some parts of the historic building will be preserved. This project costs about $4.2 million in total, and the team needs to raise about $750,000.

“I see this theater bringing hope along the corridor, where other great organizations and development arms in the community will be inspired to launch their projects,” McGuire said. “And all of us working in concert to make sure that Donald Lee Hollowell is an amazing destination spot like a lot of great neighborhoods across Atlanta.”

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is a Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for...

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