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by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & hey're 94 percent of the way there: $29 million down, $2 million to go.

The Fox may be open for business, but the fund-raising for the project is not fully completed. You can still purchase a nameplate on one of the Fox's seats for $500, or you could spring for a bronze star on the sidewalk outside (a cool $25,000). Or you could just write a Fix the Fox check.

But Brenda Nienhouse, executive director of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, expects that -- with six-figure grants from foundations still coming in -- the fund-raising campaign will be completed before next spring.

It has been a long process. The Fox was a rundown Regal Cinemas triplex showing second-run movies until 2000. Around that time, there was talk of demolishing the building altogether. But due to the efforts of the local historic preservation community -- and $1 million from Miss Myrtle Woldson, later supplemented by her additional $2 million gift -- the Spokane Symphony was able to purchase the 1931 theater.

That's when the seven-year process of financing the restoration began: In round numbers, $8 million from the state and $1 million from the feds; $4 million from foundations and corporations; $7 million from big donors (including the $3 million in memory of Martin Woldson); $1.5 million from the public (small donors); and $7 million in tax credits (future reductions in the tax burden, granted on account of restoring a historic building that's in a rundown neighborhood -- and, in the meantime, capable of being sold at a discounted rate to for-profit institutions that, unlike the Fox's 501(c)(3), are subject to taxation).

Included in all that multifaceted fund-raising is a scaled-down-from-$6 million but still substantial $4.5 million endowment, serving partly as a rainy-day fund and partly as a way to make the Fox affordable for local nonprofit arts organizations. Groups like the Spokane Youth Symphony, Spokane Opera, and the Spokane Area Children's Chorus will be able to rent the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox at reduced rates.

The Fox will be more than just the home of the Symphony, says Nienhouse. "It will be a regional performing arts center," she says. "And we hope that with all the other activities, including the social events, the Fox will be like a community living room -- a place to gather and to showcase all the arts."

It's a showcase that will extend far beyond the Fox's walls. Because the Fox renovation has included a wide-broadband Internet capability, what happens on the Fox stage can be video-linked to schools and theaters across the state and even the nation: A master class held in Spokane, for example, could be transmitted to other cities, and vice versa. The horizons of artistic opportunity around here are leaping by the gigabyte.

As for the in-person visitors, once they experience the visual-aural treat of listening to music inside the Fox, they may be motivated to buy one of those seat nameplates or sidewalk stars. The Fox Capital Campaign still has millions to raise, you know.
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