Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Ventures Collaboration Allows Non-Profit To Complete Historic Renovations In Rural West Virginia Town

As a designated Community Development Entity (CDE) as well as a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Kentucky-based non-profit Community Ventures (CV) has as a core mission of creating and/or supporting projects that revitalize and grow disinvested communities. Grant funding provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative allowed Community Ventures to extend a helping hand to the Bluefield Arts Revitalization Corporation (BARC) in neighboring West Virginia in the form of a $600,000 bridge loan.

Community Ventures’ initial involvement with BARC was in a consulting capacity, facilitating the financing to renovate and re-open the historic Granada Theater in the town of Bluefield, West Virginia, also home to Bluefield State University, an Historic Black College or University, or HBCU. Additional financial assistance rendered by Community Ventures to BARC via the Appalachian Regional Commission POWER grant included $20,000 in pre-development funding, typically used by non-profits to cover costs such as legal fees, architects or feasibility studies.

Looking to create even more regional economic impact, Phase Two of BARC’s project undertook the renovation of the 11,000 square foot space sitting vacant underneath the Granada Theater, ultimately adding two additional theaters, retail space and teaching labs for the New River Community and Technical College to offer classes in the healthcare field to local students. In 1928, the space started out as a Ford Motor Company car and truck dealership and later, the Montgomery Ward Tire and Auto Center until the iconic company went out of business in 2001.

According to Brian Tracey, Executive Director of BARC, it was the ARC-POWER funding that provided the final piece of the financial puzzle that propelled the second phase of the project over the finish line.

“Phase Two started shortly after we opened the Granada Theater,” explained Tracey. “We began working with Community Ventures to find a New Markets Tax Credit allocation and an investor, and that took some time. So that deal…the NMTC investment, closed in 2022. And BARC, the non-profit entity, was the leverage lender in the NMTC transaction. So, BARC had to come to the closing table with quite a bit of money. We had commitments from a local foundation to fund that money, but those commitments were back-ended. We needed the cash at closing to take advantage of the NMTC. That’s where Community Ventures came in. Community Ventures made a $600,000 bridge loan secured by the future pledges from a local foundation. Without that bridge loan, our transaction wouldn’t have gotten the closing.”

Dan Heffernan, President of New Markets Tax Credits for Community Ventures, jumped at the chance to assist BARC with these projects that are a catalyst for job creation and revitalization in this rural West Virginia region.

In addition to providing the integral bridge loan, a chance meeting enabled Heffernan to bring BARC together with a principal of Harbor Bank of Maryland, a Black-owned entity and CDE in the Baltimore/Washington DC area looking to invest in a worthy project via New Markets Tax Credits.

“I stumbled across the head of Harbor Bank at a conference in Miami, and he said to me ‘I have $4 million that I need to put into a project…do you have anything?’”, recalls Heffernan. “I told him I had an historic theater in a rural community called Bluefield. I was actually joking with him because I knew he wanted to invest in inner-city projects, but I told him that one of the unique components of the project is that there is an HBCU in this rural community. I mentioned that it’s kind of crazy because only 12% of the student population is Black, but that percentage is growing and there is quite a storied history there. He just looked at me and said ‘Ok. We’ll invest in it.’

“It’s just a great story of how all the elements of this project came together, and we are grateful for ARC’s vision and their support of these initiatives.”

For more information, contact: Dan Heffernan at

About Community Ventures

Founded in 1982, Community Ventures is a community-based, non-profit organization that exists to improve the quality of life for urban and rural residents throughout Kentucky. CV helps people increase income and build assets with three main strategies: small business ownership, home ownership, and job creation through business expansion. CV is headquartered in Lexington with branch offices in Campbellsville, Louisville, Millersburg, Bowling Green, Mayfield and Owensboro.