Feds invest more than $585K to boost tourism in La Grande

Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration on Tuesday, Sept.
27, announced it is awarding a $585,534 grant to La Grande’s Liberty Theatre
Foundation to support the recovery of the local tourism sector through the
revitalization of a historic La Grande landmark.

This project
continues the restoration of the historic Liberty Theatre, helping to attract
visitors to downtown La Grande. The project will be matched with $218,887 in
local funds and is expected to generate $150,000 in private investment,
according to grantee estimates.

“The Economic
Development Administration is dedicated to working with communities to support
their locally-driven strategies to recover and rebuild from the pandemic,” said
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo
in the press release. “This investment will support creation of a destination
attraction in downtown La Grande, benefitting the local economy.”

Official notice of
the grant, which is funded by the American Rescue Plan, was welcome news to the

“This is exciting
news not just for the foundation but for our entire community,’’ said Ashley
O’Toole, foundation chairman. “This level of funding should be enough to get us
to the grand opening we’ve all been dreaming of since the foundation was formed
in 2012. This is our first federal grant and it’s more than double any other
grant we have received. We are already at work assembling a bid package in
order to begin the procurement process for a prime contractor who will complete
the project.”

Oregon’s senators in
the announcement stated they are pleased the federal funds will be able to
assist the La Grande project.

“Community mainstays
like La Grande’s Liberty Theatre are a must to bring Oregonians together in a
common space where they can enjoy the arts and even more local cultural
events,” said Sen. Ron Wyden. “I’m glad this historic theater is being restored
by community leaders and that federal resources I fought for in the American
Rescue Plan are being invested in this project. I look forward to seeing the
benefits from this investment ripple out through Eastern Oregon.”

This project is
funded under the Economic Development Administration’s $240 million competitive
American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation program. EDA
awarded $510 million in 2021 to all 50 states and territories, according to the
press release. The program is designed to accelerate the recovery of
communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors.
EDA closed all of its American Rescue Plan programs for applications as of May
26. The $3 billion program funding is being awarded on a rolling basis through
Sept. 30.

“The theater and the
arts are important ways for people to connect with their neighbors and
communities through performances, lecture series, and events,” Sen. Jeff
Merkley said. “This EDA funding to support the restoration of the historic
Liberty Theater in La Grande will go a long way in attracting residents and
visitors alike and boost the local economy, while bringing back a piece of the
town’s history in the process. I look forward to the completion of the
restoration process and the many benefits this project will bring to La