The Princess Theatre could add handicapped seating, move its sound booth and update its restrooms at a cost of almost $239,000 and comply as much as possible with the Americans with Disabilities Act given the building's history and configuration.

The Decatur City Council will vote Monday on awarding the contract to E-Tech Construction, which submitted the only bid of $238,924 for the project. The plan was presented this week at the council work session.

Chief Financial Officer Kyle Demeester told the council that the money will come out of the Heritage Fund, a reserve account that must be spent on the city’s capital projects.

Community Development Manager Allen Stover said Evan Terry & Associates identified the Princess’ issues during a study of city facilities in 2016. The city began addressing problems found in the study as money became available.

“The ADA update at the Princess was one of the most expensive (items),” Stover said.

Jacob Wood, of Frameworks Architecture, said they looked at Terry & Associates' study “and decided what we could do and couldn’t do based on the history of the building.”

The theater’s website said it was originally a livery stable built in 1887. The Princess was transformed into a silent film and vaudeville playhouse in 1919. The performance venue on Second Avenue Northeast received a facelift in 1941 into the art deco style that remains today.

The 2016 study found ADA compliance issues in the main restrooms behind the concession stand, dressing rooms for the performers, the Green Room and the lobby restroom.

However, Wood said they determined adjustments to the lobby restrooms couldn’t be done based on the space and history of the facility.

Some of the adjustments in the project include creating an ambulatory stall (with handrails) in the women’s restroom behind the concession stand, and lowering the urinal and baby-changing station in the men’s restroom behind the concession stand.

One change that will impact the main theater area involves adjustments to the seating and sound and lighting equipment.

An elevator couldn't be added to provide access to the balcony area where the less expensive seats are, so a decision was made to add handicapped seating in the rear of the lower level, Stover said.

Wood said the sloped floor in the lower seating area limits locations for adding wheelchair spots. But since sound operators working near the back of the theater have complained of an inability to clearly hear the stage sound, it made sense to move the sound booth to make room for handicapped seating, he said.

Wood said the plan is to move the sound and lighting booths forward and add handicapped seating on each side. There will be space for five wheelchairs and a companion seat for each, he said.

“There will still be spots for wheelchairs in the front,” Wood said.

The roof has “some small leaks” that are damaging the lobby and listening room so Stover said they chose to delay plans to repair and paint those two rooms and their ceilings until the roof is repaired or replaced at a later date.

Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake said the initial estimate for a new roof is about $400,000, so this will require the city to seek bids. The roofing project will be presented later to the City Council, he added.

Wood said they can quickly do much of the work to the restrooms and dressing rooms. However, the schedule for the adjustments in the main theater is unknown at this point.

“We have to work around the Princess’ performance schedule and find a point when we can get to the seats that are scheduled to be removed,” Wood said.

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