PLATTSBURGH - Leigh C. Mundy has found the perfect recipe for restoring a building consists of passion, energy and, of course, money.
Mundy stands at the helm of the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts' board of trustees, which has been working since 2006 to restore the former Strand Theatre on Brinkerhoff Street. The project has been a challenging one, said Mundy, but one she feels is well worth the effort.
"It's beautiful," Mundy said of the Strand. "We're talking marble staircases, we're talking aluminum leafing. Just a beautiful, beautiful theatre."
The NCCCA board purchased the building in 2004, saving it from foreclosure, said Mundy. The Strand was still being used as a movie house at the time, and was allowed to continue doing so until it was closed in 2006 for asbestos abatement.
That's when the restoration truly began, she said, under the guidance of her predecessor, Sylvia Stack. The process involved refurbishing many of the fixtures within the building in order to comply with regulations of the National Register of Historical Places, of which the Strand is registered.
"It's as close as you can get," Mundy said of the changes so far.
The most modern changes to the 10,000 square-foot building have been to make it handicap-accessible to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The restoration, which has been previously described as being a $3.6 million project, has been mainly slowed by delayed government funding, said Mundy.
"Grants from the state have been tremendously delayed. We just last year got the money available to us from a 2006 grant," she said.
Currently, the NCCCA board is awaiting a 2008 grant from New York State. What's kept the momentum going, however, has been "generous donations from the community."
"The large chunks of money are always great, but I have a lady that sends me a $25 check a quarter," said Mundy. "It's what she can do but she knows it's important ... It's really special."
Through continued fundraising efforts such as the Strand's Sponsor a Seat program - which gives those donating $150 to $500 an engraved nameplate for a theatre seat - the project will succeed, Mundy said.
"I have somebody who bought two in the back because they kissed there," she said. "I have a family that's bought a whole row."
It's that connection to local history that makes the Strand more than a building, Mundy said.
"I think anytime you can restore something to its grandeur of the way they used to build things is important. It's important for our heritage it's important for the community," she said.
And, now is a critical time to help make donations go farther, Mundy emphasized. Donations made before Wednesday, June 30, will be counted toward the NCCCA's required matching portion toward an Empire State Tax Credit.
For more information on how to donate, contact Mundy at 563-1604, or visit the NCCCA Web site at www.plattsburgharts.org.
"I would like to see [the Strand] be everything the community needs," said Mundy. "There are so many things it could be."