Mold, asbestos to be removed from Opera House


NORWAY — Mold and asbestos found in several areas of the 1894 Opera House will be removed before a $1 million renovation project begins this spring.

Jake Keeler, an associate with Lachman Architects & Planners of Portland, said some of the hazardous materials were found in the first-floor storefronts of the Main Street building.

“Several basement spaces have mold and asbestos, as well as some flooring materials,” he said. “The actual material that makes up the storefronts was not found to contain such materials, but various interior spaces were.”

The affected spaces include flooring in the former Colonial Cafe. “Some of the affected areas are quite exposed and work will be fairly simple, while other materials are buried under many other layers of newer flooring,” he said.

Although mold and asbestos were removed from the basement and other areas during stabilization of the Opera House in 2010 and 2011, Keeler said areas that were not being worked on then remained untouched.

“Work to remove asbestos is heavily regulated and we’re working on securing bids from licensed abatement contractors that are able to do such work before the big project goes out to general bid” this spring, Keeler said.

Bids for the $1 million renovations to the basement and storefronts are expected to go out in May.

The cost of the abatement work and how to pay for it is not clear yet, Dennis Gray, president of the Norway Opera House Corp., said. Selectmen have approved deeding the building to the corporation.

The three-story brick Opera House was taken by the town by eminent domain in 2010, because a partial roof collapse in 2007 rendered it structurally unstable. The town compensated owner Bitim Enterprises of Londonderry, N.H., $185,000.

Two of the six storefronts were vacated when the roof collapsed. The others, as well as the second floor ballroom and third floor balcony had been empty for years.

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NORWAY — The Norway Opera House Corp. is about to launch a major fundraising campaign to help pay for renovating the historical downtown property.

 “We need to raise $180,000 but that turns into a little over $1 million,” Dennis Gray, president of the corporation, said.

The $180,000 is necessary to meet a matching grant requirement for a $400,000 Communities for Maine’s Future Grant received last fall. That money, along with $440,000 in federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits, will be used to renovate the first-floor storefronts. A $200,000 grant received last year for the initial abatement work will bring the total money raised for the Opera House project to about $1.2 million, he said.

Gray said the Opera House Corp. is looking at types of activities they may undertake to raise the $180,000.

Anyone interested in donating to the fund may send a check to the Norway Opera House Corp., P.O. Box 271, Norway, ME 04268.

Selectmen have OK’d transferring ownership of the Opera House to the corporation, with the town retaining ownership of the clock and bell in the tower at the top the building.

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