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HdG Opera House Project Awarded $250K State Grant

Maryland lawmakers provided a portion of the funding needed for the Havre de Grace opera house renovations.

The Maryland House of Delegates approved a grant of $250,000 for renovation of the Union Avenue Opera House, a project the city hopes will bolster its arts and entertainment district.

As it stands, the historic building at 121 N. Union Ave. is underutilized and poses safety hazards, according to the Havre de Grace Office of Economic Development's funding request submitted to the state.

Since 1871, the opera house building has been used for dramatic productions, as a school and for government functions, according to the economic development office. At one time, the first floor housed City Hall.

However, the building does not meet requirements for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means its uses are limited.

The Havre de Grace Main Street organization, Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy and Tidewater Players lease space there.

According to Economic Development Manager Meghan Simmons, the Havre de Grace Opera House will bring increased foot traffic to the city's business district, and more people will have greater access to local organizations.

After renovation, the first floor will house a box office, meeting/rehearsal space, black box theater and bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A lobby with an elevator will also be constructed, connecting the opera house building to the Susquehanna Hose Company firehouse next door.

The second floor, which the acting troupe Tidewater Players currently leases for its semiannual productions, will be restored.

The theater currently has 120 seats and after restoration, it will have 200 seats, according to Simmons, who said the change will enable more people to attend performances and provide a place for businesses to hold forums and other gatherings.

To date, Havre de Grace has invested $300,000 in architectural fees, inspections, and building maintenance improvements since 2011, Simmons said.

Now that studies and schematic plans have been drawn up, the next steps for the project are design development and construction drawings.

In all, the opera house project will cost $2.6 million dollars, Simmons said. In addition to money from the state and city, funding will come from private donations and grants.

“By investing in our historic district, the City of Havre de Grace—through state grant funding and capital investments—has leveraged millions in private investment in the past decade," Simmons said. "Arts and culture [have] been a major catalyst for reinvestment and neighborhood revitalization."

This article was updated at 6:30 p.m.

See Also:

  • City Presents Plans for Union Avenue Opera House
Carol April 04, 2013 at 11:06 AM
Annette, I don't have a problem with making things better for our Town. The problem is there is NOTHING in our town for our young people. How many are going to be flooding this Opra House to see a show? Our young people or really any age because all ages go bowling or skating, they have to go to another town or into Del. to do fun loving things. There is nothing to entertain or keep them busy and out of trouble in HdG.
Brian April 04, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Ken. You certainly bring valid points to the conversation. My concern with this whole project is the cost and where the funds are coming from. At a time when the State is claiming to be broke, gas taxes are going up, fees are going up, teacher's pensions that were negotiated through the state are now the county's responsibility which means a double whammy for the tax payers all because the state can't find resources to fill the wholes that they ultimately dig. We are all supposed to be making sacrifices but it seems the government doesn't apply to this philosophy. I keep ratcheting the belt in my household and then turn around and see the amount of money spent on a project like this. If it were my project to deal with, I would renovate the building so that it could be used as it's structural capabilities will allow and improve the building in order to retain it's structural integrity. As for conference centers and theaters and these type of projects requiring ADA compliance, I believe there are other avenues that can be explored for far less investment from the tax payer. As it is, the current estimated cost of improvements to this one building are 21.5 times the estimated value of my home that is located in Havre de Grace. That is just preposterous and wasteful to me.
Greekgirl April 04, 2013 at 01:26 PM
The Opera house will not be just for Opera. It will accomodate many different types of arts and events. There are a plethora of cultural activities for young adults. Havre de Grace has worked very hard in providing us with a calendar of events. In addition, Wonder Toys in Havre de Grace, The Lockhouse Museum and The Steppingstone Museum, just to mention a few, all offer events that are perfect for Children and young adults. We are very lucky to have all of this in Havre de Grace and live within 5 minutes of Aberdeen can offer even more.
Ken April 04, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Renovating it without making it a viable location for people to use is just throwing money out the window. If we leave it as is, it is an old building that nobody is using and costing taxpayer money. If we do only minimal structural renovations, it will be a mildly renovated building that nobody is using and costing taxpayer money. To stop the bleeding, you've got to make it a functional venue. They aren't putting in unnecessary bells and whistles. They aren't even putting in a sound booth. They are doing what needs to be done to make this into a venue that can start supporting itself financially. Legally, that means it has to be ADA compliant. There is no other lesser option. As for the money, they have come up with a pretty creative plan that minimizes the impact on taxpayers. It will not be fully funded by taxpayer dollars. See below for more information about the project. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. If we don't undertake this renovation now, it will end up costing taxpayers much more in the long run. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:hmPXCNClnjgJ:www.havredegracemd.com/content/media/Havre%2520de%2520Grace%2520Opera%2520House%2520Renovation%2520Project.pdf+havre+de+grace+opera+house+renovation&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgCad8slOWfs6sDiTokFEGDz8A8VH5-2974F-SnhUssVuLeGUTxk7jRGJELK0dTm8TndM0U8r6gKxxYBzjBWZq6Dv8RHCSl_y5tsa9bcyC7yRohF78kt_AAaAAxGJuY3ykBdlIM&sig=AHIEtbS72hB96EkANSWlOEGy5RdX21_ZMQ
commoncourtesy April 07, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Carol, You have brought up a point that has been made for many years - all across the county, state, country. A bowling alley, skating rink, etc... are all private businesses. The government does not build a bowling alley - a business owner does this. Look how huge Bel Air has become and they have lost both their skating rinks (they had 2) and Bel Air Bowl. Why? Would they be more successful in HdG? What is there for young people to do here - well, we have Parks & Rec, school activities, church activities, parks and trails, water sports, games at Wash. St. Books, coffee houses to gather with friends, etc...

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