It was in this spirit that the Music Hall Revitalization Company* and the City of Cincinnati announced an agreement regarding the future of Music Hall December 19.
Surrounded by white lights and holiday greenery in the lobby of Music Hall, Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory and MHRC chairman Otto M. Budig, Jr. announced that the City will lease the 135-year-old building to the MHRC for a period of 75 years at $1 a year.
This will allow the revitalization process -- stalled since last spring -- to go ahead. As part of the agreement, the City will provide $10 million toward completion of the project.
“I’ve said from the beginning that we’re going to get this deed done,” said Mallory, calling it “a great day.”
“Together we will save this iconic structure,” said Budig.
The scope of the renovation has been reduced and will now cost an estimated $95 million, down from the $165 million previously announced. (See “Music Hall Continues to Evolve” in News/Features on this site http://www.musicincincinnati.com/site/news_2011/Music_Hall_Continues_to_Evolve.html.)
No timeline for the renovation was given. “We want to do this right, as opposed to finishing it quickly,” said Budig. “Getting the lease completed was an important step.” Updates will be provided as details become available and a financing structure has been worked out, he said.
Of first importance will be addressing infrastructure needs, such as heating, electricity and patron accessibility. Restrooms will be expanded and new, more comfortable seats installed in Springer Auditorium.
Budig touched upon several sensitive issues that have arisen since the decision to renovate the hall was made almost two years ago. These included the two-ton crystal chandelier in the auditorium (it will remain) and the escalators. New escalators will be installed, along with a bank of elevators in the lobby.
Future seating capacity for the auditorium (another contentious issue) was not mentioned.
The tenants of Music Hall – the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet and May Festival – who plan their programs years in advance -- will have to find alternative venues during the time Music Hall will be closed renovation. This is expected to last from May, just after the conclusion of the May Festival, until the end of the following season, approximately 17 months, with tenants resuming occupancy in the fall.
Representatives of the CSO, Opera and May Festival expressed no concern about season planning, however. Opera general manager Patty Beggs described the Opera’s strategy as “venue agnostic,” meaning that alternate venues could be utilized for future Opera productions.
In closing, Budig quoted John Adams: “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
*The Music Hall Revitalization Company, Inc. is a private, non-profit corporation founded by the Cincinnati Arts Association (manager of Music Hall), Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet, May Festival and Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, in February, 2010 to lead and coordinate plans for renovating Music Hall, including design, construction, communications and fundraising. The all-volunteer board comprises Otto M. Budig, Jr. (president and chairman), Manuel Chavez III, Alva Jean Crawford, Harry Fath, William Friedlander, Daniel Hoffheimer, Larry Sheakley, Joe Shields and Dudley Taft.