NORWAY — The contract for the $1.1 million rehabilitation of the six Opera House storefronts is expected to be awarded as soon as next week.
Norway Opera House Corp. board member Bruce Cook said Wednesday that bids for the project, which will also include the restoration of the back wall of the three-story brick building on Main Street, are due in the architect's office by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17.
Project architect Jake Keeler, an associate with Dennis Lachman Architects and Planners in Portland, will review the bids and make a recommendation to the Norway Opera House Corp., which will award the contract. The architectural firm has extensive experience in projects using state and federal rehabilitation tax credits programs and have worked on historic buildings.
Cook said by Aug. 27 or 28, the corporation and Norway Savings Bank will have entered into an agreement for a loan that will enable the corporation to use historic tax credits in the project and work will begin.
“The time for outdoor work is wrapping up around this part of the country,” Cook said. “We're ready to begin.”
Three prequalified bidders who have worked with historic buildings and historic tax credits inspected the 1894 Opera House several weeks ago. Last week and this subcontractors who may work with the contractors inspected the building.
While Cook said he has not heard that anyone has submitted bid documents to the architects office yet, he is not surprised because of the short turnaround for bidders after Gov. Paul LePage froze the funding for the project in June and the project's future was questionable.
“It's not surprising. It was a pretty short window we gave them,” he said.
The prequalified contractors were requested by architects to look at the project and bid on it. The contractor will be working under guidelines set by the National Park Service, which regulates buildings on the National Register of Historic Places using historic tax credits.
“We're ready to bring them in and start working,” Cook said.
The plan calls for the six storefronts to remain essentially the same but have energy, bathroom, basement storage and other improvements. It is hoped the spaces will be leased out as soon as construction ends.
If there is enough money, the original bricks from the back wall will be restored. They were taken off during a structural repair several years ago.
The Opera House is the centerpiece of the downtown business district and has remained vacant since the partial roof collapse in September 2007. The town took ownership of it in 2010, because it was public hazard, and stabilized the back wall.
It was once the center of community and cultural life, but its second floor ballroom and third floor balcony have been closed since the 1970s. The clock in the tower that tops the building is operating.