Palladium Looks to Raise $10 Million for Renovations
The Palladium Theater may soon go through a multi-million-dollar interior transformation. The Northeast neighborhood icon already received $850,000 from the Florida senate this summer, and much of those funds will go into the design and consulting teams who will redesign the Palladium interior.
Executive director Paul Wilborn says the organization is applying for another $850,000 grant from the senate to aid with construction costs. In addition, the Palladium is launching a fundraising campaign with a $10 million final goal and an end date of 2025.
“It’s a lot of money, but we’re confident we can [raise it],” Wilborn said. “The majority of the money will come from private donors.”
Built in 1925, the building is almost 100 years old and was originally a Christian Science church. The venue holds concerts and musical events weekly and has become a fixture of downtown St. Pete’s arts culture. Today, the main auditorium, Hough Hall, which seats 830, could use a revamp in acoustics and comfort.
Wilborn says he’d like to clear the current seating options and add 800 brand new, larger, more plush chairs. “Each chair will give you a full view of the stage,” Wilborn said. “If someone tall, like my wife, is in front of you – well then it’s going to be hard to see [now].”
Walking into the theater, visitors are immediately met with classic stone walls, high ceilings, and historic flooring, and Wilborn assures that those elements will remain. What will change is the sound and the feel. The potential funding will hopefully cover adapted curtains that will adjust the sound for amped music, like guitars and drums.
“The room is good for acoustics, opera, orchestra music, but when we go to amplified sound, it tends to get muddy,” Wilborn said.
Palladium personnel say the theater will have to go dark for 9 to 12 months for all the major renovations. They guesstimate the upstairs, and possibly the smaller downstairs theatre, will close at the end of 2024 or possibly early 2025.
The good news? The Palladium does not pay rent – it’s covered by St. Petersburg College, which acquired the theatre in August of 2007. However, turning out the lights for nine months to a year poses a significant loss of revenue.
“It’s totally scary raising this amount of money,” Wilborn said. “$10 million is the goal … and the good news is we’re not tearing it down. We’re not touching the historical nature of this great building.”
Old Northeast residents won’t see much construction from the outside, but they’ll have to go without Palladium entertainment for a spell. Wilborn advises supporters to stay tuned for more fundraising events in upcoming months, adding, “Your Northeast neighborhood theater is making improvements to be a better neighbor for the community in the long run.”