Jimbo Collins is under contract to be the next owner of the historic Port Theatre in Port St. Joe.
His plans for the building mirror in significant aspects those of a local group of arts patrons hoping to purchase the building.
Collins appeared before the Port St. Joe Planning and Development Review Board on Tuesday to provide a brief overview of what his hopes are for renovating the building.
Collins is due to close on the deal for the theater in January, he said. He told the planning board members he still has work to do to formalize his plans and no formal action was taken by the board.
Collins said his financing is in place but there is still due diligence to be done prior to closing. Local contractor Bob Windolf will be his general contractor, Collins said.
“I’m excited to be here,” Collins said. “Timing is everything and I think the time is right now. I think a higher power had a reason for me being here at this time.
“I have been welcomed by the community with open arms. It has been overwhelming. I cannot tell you how much it has exceeded my expectations.”
Collins renovation of the theater will take place over two phases, he said. He said the building could become an anchor for a revitalization of Reid Avenue.
“I want the old theater to be a community-use theater,” Collins said.
Once the purchase of the theater is closed, Collins plans on holding two public meetings to receive input from residents on ideas for the “highest and best use” of the theater.
Collins plans at this time are to convert the first floor of the theater into a room conducive to large community functions as well as concerts and recitals.
He hopes to partner with the Gulf Coast State College and Florida State University and their arts programs to bring arts education and performances to Port St. Joe.
While he intends no permanent seating at this time, the first floor could accommodate a significantly-sized function, he said.
“I want the first floor to be a multi-use area,” Collins said.
The other aspect of the first phase would be converting the rooftop into an area for weddings and other events. He said his intention is to partner with a local wedding planner on turning the rooftop into the ideal place for a weddings and similar functions.
“I hope by mid-March or April to have events on the roof,” Collins said.
The second phase, as currently outlined, would include the creation of two levels of loft-type apartments.
Collins said the steel enclosure surrounding three sides of the old projection room is perfect for an elevator to reach all levels of the building.
While there is much to finalize, Jay Rish, chairman of the planning board, expressed optimism.
“It seems like an ambitious and interesting plan,” Rish said. “I am all for anything that brings people to the community to spend their money.”