Leeds rehab, restoration on schedule

Four months into a renovation and restoration of the Leeds Center for the Arts, things are on schedule for an April reopening.

The 91-year-old downtown theater closed in November for several months of work designed to bring the downtown fixture back to its former glory.

“We have finished the plaster and painting in the auditorium,” Winchester Council for the Arts President Tracey Miller said. “It was a big job because that was the biggest phase. We’ve finished plumbing the bathrooms” which are now ready for new time and toilets.

The lobby and concession stand will have a new look with a new color palette and a rebuilt concession area with cabinetry built by local Boy Scouts and a donated granite counter top, she said. Lights still need to be re-hung and carpet installed, she said.

On Monday, painting begins in the rest of the theater ahead of an April 14 “Rediscover Leeds” event to publicly reveal the theater to the town again. Once the painting is finished, the cleaning can begin in earnest, she said.

This is only the second time Leeds has been closed. The previous time was in the 1980s for a renovation after it closed as a movie theater. This time, the City of Winchester is covering the theater’s operating expenses during the closure.

“We have gotten a lot done,” Miller said. “It’s been great. We have all new paint colors so Leeds will look very different inside, but it’s refreshing.”

On April 14, Leeds will be open to the public for an open house. During the evening, Miller said the theater will be rededicated as well as the “ghost light.” Traditionally, the ghost light was installed to keep ghosts out of the theater, she said.

“We look at it as a symbol of us being a light in the community,” Miller said.

Leeds is already going to have a busy year. The first event in the refreshed theater will be a concert by cellist and Lexington native Ben Sollee April 15. Tickets are on sale now for $20.

Later in the month, Disney’s Little Mermaid Jr. premieres April 28 for the first of four shows. In August, “Hairspray” takes the stage followed by “Disney’s Lion King Jr.” in November and “The 39 Steps” in April 2018.