Encore for Cincinnati’s EMERY THEATRE

News from Cincinnati member MIKE DETROY:

Emery Theatre encore in works

Fundraiser at venue Nov. 11-13

The Cincinnati Enquirer, October 2, 2011

By Jackie Demaline     jdemaline@enquirer.com

Restoring and reopening Over-the-Rhine’s century-old, 1,700-seat Emery Theatre has been part of the conversation of neighborhood and historic preservation activists since it closed to the public in 1999.


Now the effort has new life, spearheaded by Tara Lindsey Gordon and Cincinnati native Tina Manchise, who together are the nonprofit Requiem Project. For more than two years they have been quietly building support to bring back the acoustically pure performance space located inside the Emery Building at the corner of Central Parkway and Walnut Street.

Most significantly, Cleveland-based architectural firm Westlake, Reed and Leskosky has signed on. WRL is nationally known for renovating historic theaters as unique cultural venues, including playing a role in revitalizing the movie palaces of Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, the largest performing arts complex outside of New York’s Lincoln Center.

Local architect and member of the Ohio Historical Preservation board, John Senhauser of Senhauser Architects, will team with WRL for the architectural design.

Total cost for the restoration won’t be available until after the study is completed in late October, but WRL has stated the average cost for a comparable renovation is $14.5 million. The architectural team is donating $40,000 of pro bono services initially and has agreed to $20,000 for the design work for the historic theater.

Gordon and Manchise report they have acquired a nine-month temporary occupancy permit for The Emery and will open the doors to the public the weekend of Nov. 11-13, beginning with a benefit concert headlined by local band Over The Rhine and continuing Saturday and Sunday with family activities and participation of 14 local arts groups.

Nov. 11 will be the official announcement of restoration plans and kickoff of a capital campaign.

Gordon and Manchise are in conversation with several local smaller arts organizations to schedule programming at The Emery, and the occupancy permit carries through the World Choir Games in summer 2012. Madcap Puppets, Exhale Dance and Concert Nova have all shown interest, Manchise said.

All are signed on to participate in the opening weekend activities.

Manchise, a graduate of University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, said the vision for the restoration project “is to re-establish the century-old performance space into an independent, modernized facility that will provide entertainment and educational opportunities … in a variety of artistic disciplines, including film, theater, music and dance.”

The largest hurdle will be fundraising. There have been restoration efforts as far back as 1988, when $5 million was requested from the state of Ohio, but money was annually sidetracked by other civic building plans, including the stadium and ballpark and the Freedom Center.

In the early 1990s, private financing for the restoration fell through after Downtown leaders decided to build what became the Aronoff Center for the Performing Arts.

In 2000, former Senate President Stanley Aronoff coordinated an aggressive campaign on behalf of the Emery and the nonprofit Emery Center Corp. and enlisted dozens of supporters, including U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, to urge Gov. Bob Taft and Senate President Richard Finan, R-Evendale, to secure funding.

The plan drafted in 2000 by arts consultants to preserve the acoustics and historic status while bringing the venue up to current standards had a cost of $17.5 million, including the $5 million in state money.

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