NORWAY — The historic Opera House may have two tenants by February.
Two businesses are negotiating details of a lease agreement with the Norway Opera House Corp., member Bruce Cook said Wednesday.
“Yes there are two definite. They have both made proposals,” he said. The corporation and lease management company Tony Morra are marketing five, first-floor commercial spaces.
The businesses that have expressed an interest in leasing space are a gem store and a novelty business, Cook said. The proposals are under review by the corporation.
The three-story brick edifice built in 1894 and once the center of community activities has been vacant since a partial roof collapse in September 2007. The town took it by eminent domain in 2011 because it was a public safety hazard and turned it over to the Norway Opera House Corp. this year.
Contractors have been working on the $1.1 million renovation of the first floor for the past several months. Interior spaces are almost ready for painting and will be ready for occupancy no later than Feb. 1, Cook said.
“I wish people could see what's going on inside,” he said. The interior work is hidden by plywood coverings on the floor-to-ceiling window spaces. The old single-pane window glass has been removed and double-paned, energy-efficient glass is expected to be installed soon.
One new window, the largest on the storefronts, will weigh about 1,000 pounds, Cook said. Before it arrives, Cook said workers will make sure the wood beneath the space can hold the weight.
Everything has been made energy efficient. Insulation has been pumped into the exterior walls and was being put into the basements Wednesday. The basements have poured floors instead of dirt.
LED lights will be placed on top of the exterior door to shine upward. Additionally, each face of the 1894 E. Howard clock will be lit with LED lights.
“We want people to notice the building,” Cook said.
The spaces are being leased for about $1 per square foot. The price is on average with other downtown commercial spaces, Cook said. Tenants are responsible for heating, which is propane, and electrical costs. Each unit comes with its own electrical meter.
The renovation on the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is being done under the guidelines of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. The architecture is being retained as much as possible.
In the past century, restaurants, flower shops, clothing stores and other businesses have occupied the spaces.
The Norway Opera House Corp. is continuing its effort to raise another $200,000 to help meet the initial $1.1 million renovation estimate.
To make a donation or for more information, go to to the website http://www.saveouroperahouse.org, or call Bruce Cook at 207-890-7920.