Newton Reborn project aims to bring new life to community

Michaela Regier

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Revived, rebuilt, and renewed. That is what Newton can and will become according to Brandon Eck, head pastor of The Gathering. The church, located on main street inside the historical Fox Theatre, developed a unique project called ‘Newton Reborn’ to spread their faith and improve the community.

The goal of the project is to rejuvenate Newton’s downtown in order to get community members interested in the available opportunities. The church is beginning with a complete remodel of one of Main Street’s focal points, the Fox Theatre.

“Really, it’s the vision that we have as a church. We want to see families with just good quality life and see other things around us to begin to be transformed as well. Everything from our parks, to our buildings, the city itself. That’s what we think God wants us to see happen here in Newton. The campaign really came about as a way to express that more and invite people in,” Eck said.

The church moved their congregation from Norms Coffee Bar last year and updated the Fox to make it “livable,” knowing that when they collected the several million dollars they would need, it could be completely remodeled. The envisioned architectural renderings include a soda bar, children’s area, and a ‘Warren-like’ movie theatre.

“We are going to show movies on a weekly basis again. We are planning for concerts, plays, you name it we want it. It could be a conference center or places that anyone from teachers, to city leaders, to firefighters, a place that people could use for meetings throughout the week,” Eck said.

However, the revolution does not stop with the Fox Theatre. The group is wanting to take 10% of everything they raise and put it towards the Newton Reborn project. Ideas for future projects include a nice burger bar with an added brewery.

“Newton has no reason it can’t be as beautiful and as attractive as like an Old Town in Wichita, only we’ll call it New-town.This has all the opportunity to be a really unique boutique downtown. I think Newton can grow for sure. We can make the right environment to attract more businesses for people to have more opportunities. I don’t know that it necessarily needs to become any other town. I love the identity of Newton,” Eck said.

The campaign reaches out to people of all ages who have a passion for the community. Newton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pam Stevens is excited for the program, but understands how hard it can be to fund a project of this size.

“I think we can look within our community but also maybe outside the community with people that have maybe grown up in the community and have fond memories in the Fox Theatre and are willing to give some money,” Stevens said.
The Gathering members and those helping with the Newton Reborn project preach ‘A people and their city’. They want everyone to get involved to see all of Newton’s valuable qualities.

“I think that will spark downtown but I see a lot of growth in the south part of town. Now that the [YMCA] is there I think you are going to see a lot more energy there. A lot of business’ will want to open up there,” Stevens said.