A $100,000 matching offer from Shore Medical Center has helped the 102-year-old Gateway Playhouse in Somers Point take a step toward reopening.

“We caught the eye of the hospital, and they approached us about using (the theater) as a large meeting place,” said Jim Dalfonso, chairman of the Theater Collaborative of South Jersey, which is raising money to reopen the theater.

The playhouse has been closed since it was bought by the city from a prior theater group in 2005. The collaborative was awarded a 20-year lease by the city in 2009, when the group began the initiative to reopen the theater.

The collaborative gained attention after winning three separate $50,000 grants from the Pepsi Refresh Project of 2010, and Shore Medical approached the group with its own funding offer last year, Dalfonso said.

Shore’s donation is for $100,000.

Shore made its offer a year ago, and gave the collaborative one year to raise as much money as it could. The deadline was Sept. 30.

By Sept. 29, the organization had raised $87,000, almost $15,000 short of the needed $100,000, Dalfonso said. But last-minute donations helped the group reach $100,000, which Shore then matched.

That gave the collaborative the money it needed to start the latest phase of renovations, Dalfonso said.

Dalfonso said his group needs about $1 million to reopen the Bay Avenue Playhouse again and has half that much.

Renovations planned include exterior and interior work; the structural work has already been completed, Dalfonso said.

With donations received thus far, the Gateway has a new roof, cement footings and flooring joists, a newly configured second floor and a new stage area. The exterior of the building is the organization’s next project, with plans for new siding, windows and doors, Dalfonso said.

“There was nothing we could save” from the original building, he said. “It was much worse than we thought.”

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:

609-272-7247

Follow Anjalee Khemlani on Twitter @AnjKhem

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