Go ahead and laugh – I don’t blame you one bit. How presumptuous is it to imagine that this small community could support a series of performing arts venues within its modest downtown. After all, who do we think we are? Apparently the quote, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” from American pastor Robert Schuller, rings true with at least some in this community who continue to fight the battle for a revitalized downtown.

In 1999, when Southern Oregon University purchased the Cascade Theatre with the idea of transforming it into a performing arts hall, the community certainly had more than its share of doubters. Yet, fueled in large part by small contributions from that same community over five years, the historically restored theatre finally reopened its doors in 2004, literally to thunderous applause. I believe it will prove to be a defining moment for our downtown. In the eight years since, not only has the Cascade been a resounding success – even in the midst of a horrible local economy – but it has been followed by numerous new restaurant openings, removal of the roof over the Downtown Mall, and a new Shasta College building. 2012 will mark the arrival of not one, but two new mixed use apartment buildings for people who actually want to live in downtown Redding.

So, why shouldn’t a relocated Riverfront Theater join the fun? This is a community enterprise that over the past quarter century has only failed to live up to its name in one respect – you’ll never find it if you’re looking along the riverfront. The idea of another theater should re-ignite everyone’s imagination for what this small downtown could become if we all support it. Thanks to a dedicated core of believers, it’s closer than ever to happening.

Now all we need is to add a new jazz hall. Oh, and maybe a few art galleries, and possibly…

Written by James Theimer for The Record Searchlight’s Redding Sketchbook blog at redding.com