Opening of Opera House storefronts delayed


NORWAY — Work to reopen the storefronts of the historic Norway Opera House is continuing but with a few delays, Town Manager David Holt said.

A $1 million renovation of the first-floor of the historic 1894 downtown building and the reopening of the storefronts on Main Street is expected to occur once the deed is transferred from the town to the Norway Opera House Corp., but there has been a slight holdup, Holt said.

“We’ve had a delay in going in,” Holt told selectmen of the push to begin renovations on the six first-floor commercial store storefronts.

Holt told selectmen Thursday night that some asbestos and mold was found in the area and must be removed before any type of cleanup is started.

The bid for the major renovation work is expected to go out in May. The work will include refurbishment of the basement area, wiring and plumbing, and bringing the basement and ground floor of the building up to code. All historic aspects of the first-floor interior, including the tin ceilings and built-in shelving, and exterior, including the transoms, which will be uncovered, will be retained.

The spaces are expected to remain essentially the same but be made energy efficient. Each store space will have an updated bathroom, storage in the basement and many other amenities.

The work is being funded by a $400,000 Communities for Maine’s Future Grant that was received last fall, $440,000 in federal and state historic rehab tax credits, and $180,000 in donated funds.

Holt also said that the application for the tax credit has been filed, but work to transfer the deed from the town to the Noway Opera House Corp. is going a little slower than anticipated.

In 2010, special town meeting voters authorized selectmen to take the Opera House property by eminent domain after a portion of the roof on the historic downtown building collapsed on Sept. 21, 2007, severing a sprinkler pipe, which flooded first-floor occupied spaces in the building and compromised the stability of the building. The building has remained vacant since that time.

The town has since stabilized the back wall of the building that showed signs of collapsing.

The 17,618-square-foot building sits on about a quarter-acre land parcel and includes a one-story and three-story building with a full basement and a four-story clock tower containing a historic clock and bell.

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