The show must go on

This year, the Community Planning Workshop at the University of Oregon explored its glamorous side with the Oregon Historic Theaters Project. Robert Parker, CPW Director and Project Advisor, along with Aniko Drlik-Muehleck, Project Manager, hit the road with student team members Dana Nichols, Rodney Bohner, John Jackson, and Craig Wiroll to explore these incredible cultural gems that have anchored downtown’s and delighted audiences throughout the state of Oregon for over 50 years.

CPW undertook a 3-part investigation of historic theaters and their potential to act as economic development catalysts. Phase 1 located theaters across the state that qualified as “historic” (50 years or older).

Phase 2 began in January 2015 with a needs assessment surveys sent to theaters asking operators and owners to explain their business model and describe their needs related to building rehabilitation and maintenance, equipment upgrades, programming, and marketing.

Phase 3 coordinated marketing, where CPW worked with theater operators and owners along with regional tourism agencies to explore marketing strategies and link theater professionals with Oregon’s tourism industry to help theaters capitalize on their historic and entertainment value.

This project comes at a particularly critical moment for downtown theaters. The rising cost of maintenance and operation has dealt a hefty financial blow and forced many theaters to close their doors. Movie theaters, for example, face $50,000 minimum to upgrade to digital projection systems. In a town with less than 3000 people, how can a theater afford such an investment? As it turns out, not too many as you will see by the statistics and theatre fans in this video documenting the Oregon Historic Theatres project.

Together with Oregon Main Street, Pacific Power, and Travel Oregon (project partners), CPW hopes this project will build on the energy of grassroots movements across the state and the documentation, needs assessments, and tourism coordination will answer questions and will generate resources so historic theaters can adapt. And as they say in theatre, the show must go on!

Special to curtain call to Craig Wiroll, who took on the CPW video challenge and produced one amazing video that truly captures the story of this project. Thank you Craig.

About the Oregon Historic Theatres Team from left to right:

 Aniko Drlik-Muehleck, Dana Nichols, Rodney Bohner, John Jackson, Craig Wiroll

Aniko Drlik-Muehleck, originally from Berkeley, CA, is now a Master of Community and Regional Planning candidate at the University of Oregon and participated in the Community Service Center’s RARE AmeriCorps Program – Resource Assistance for Rural Environments with the City of Pendleton from 2012-2013. 

Craig Wiroll is a journalist and farmer-turned-Master of Public Administration student with high hopes of changing the world. For now, he’s just going to focus on the UO Campus. Craig is also a two-time AmeriCorps alum from Wisconsin, who enjoys public radio, hiking and food. 

Dana Nichols is a first year Community and Regional Planning student who enjoys cooking, gardening, and playing with her cat, Dinkus. Although she is a New Jersey native and could live off their delicious pizza, Dana would much rather be watching a Packer game in Wisconsin or sailing on a boat in Maine. 

John Jackson is a Midwesterner is a first year Community and Regional Planning Masters student at the University of Oregon. Growing up both in Chicago, Illinois and Lincoln, Nebraska, Jackson is an avid geographer who has taken his talents to the Pacific Northwest to study the craft of urban planning and the unique ways of land use, built environment, and transportation that U of O has to offer. 

Rodney Bohner is a concurrent Master’s student in Community and Regional Planning as well as Historic Preservation at the University of Oregon. Originally from Pennsylvania, Rodney has worked on cultural resource projects in the Keystone state as well as Colorado, West Virginia, and Massachusetts.


A Future Worth Planning For


Often times, it is easy as planners to become pessimistic. Sometimes it is easier to see the hurdles than it is to see what lies after them. The obstacles that stand in the way of a brighter future can be overwhelming.  When we initially started working on this Parks and Recreation Master Plan for Lake County (Community Planning Workshop Project), we encountered those obvious obstacles, but we also encountered roadblocks we were not necessarily expecting.

The obvious ones included community push back in terms of funding sources. People were very hesitant at community workshops to increase taxes. People were also skeptical about how the County could achieve the lofty goals set out in a Parks and Recreation Plan. Many people in Lake County also felt jaded by the government agencies and the lack of perceived coordination amongst the agencies.

We also encountered roadblocks that we did not expect. As none of us had worked on a Parks and Recreation Master Plan before, we faced internal challenges as to what type of deliverables we should give to the County. We faced a lot of uncertainty and constantly had new sets of questions and challenges.

However, this all proved to be a rewarding experience. From this project we learned how to harness those push backs and understand key issues in order to create a plan of goals that are realistic for the County. We hope our strategic plan, with its vision, goal areas, action ideas, and implementation ideas, provides a road map for how the County can develop in the future.

It can be easy to only see the overwhelming social, environmental, and economic problems facing communities when engaged in a planning project. With the odds stacked against us, it is easy to look bleakly at the future. However, it is also important to remember the good our plans can create and the reason why we plan is because we see a future worth planning for.


About the Authors: 

Rory Isbell CPW Community Planning Workshop Lake County Parks and Recreation Master PlanRory Isbell Rory Isbell is from Flagstaff, Arizona and is in his second  year at the University of Oregon pursuing degrees in law and community and regional planning.




Allie Breyer Community Planning Workshop CPW Lake County Parks and Recreation Master PlanAllie Breyer is a second year Master of Public Administration student with a focus in environmental policy and planning. She hails from the great state of Minnesota and moved to Oregon seeking education, experience, and adventure.