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.
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.
- City Presents Plans for Union Avenue Opera House