NORWAY — Plans to implement a $4 million renovation of the second-floor stage area of the 1894 Norway Opera House continue, Norway Opera House Corp. President Dennis Gray said.

The goal is to create an arts, performance and community multiuse space.

“We are planning on going forward and utilizing tax credits, Gray said. It will require raising about $1.5 million in local donations. The majority of the money will come from grants and state and federal historic tax credits.

The first-floor and basement renovation of the three-story brick landmark on Main Street was completed last year. Occupying the storefronts are Rough and Tumble, a luxury handbag store and its production facility; Raven Collections, which features gems from around the world and jewelry; and Fiber and Vine, a combined fiber and retail wine business.

Gray said the Norway Opera House Corp., which took ownership of the building from the town in 2012, is reviewing the latest strategic plan from Lachman Architects and Planners of Portland.

The new plan concentrates on the restoration of the second-floor hall and provides more detail, including addressing issues such as construction of an elevator.

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The Opera House is the centerpiece of the downtown National Historic District. It once served as the center for community events such as dances, plays, graduations and military ceremonies.

Constructed by the Norway Building Association on Main Street, it was owned by the town from 1920 to the mid-1970s, and by a succession of private owners for the past 30 or so years. The upper floors, which have a ballroom and balcony, have been vacant for decades.

In 2003, Maine Preservation named the Opera House one of Maine’s most endangered properties. But four years later, it was declared in danger of imminent collapse after a partial roof collapse.

With the backing of a $200,000 contribution from Bea and Bill Damon of Norway, the town took ownership of it by eminent domain, after the owner failed to stabilize it and refused to sell it to the town.

The town deeded it to the Norway Opera House Corp. in 2012, but kept ownership of the clock tower. The corporation partnered with the Norway Savings Bank to oversee a $1 million stabilization and the first-floor renovation. The partnership helped fund the majority of expenses by utilizing a Communities for Maine’s Future grant and state and federal tax credits.

The next phase will require financial support from the community and use of state and federal tax credits. For more information to to the organziations’s website, http://saveouroperahouse.org/.

ldixon@sunjournal.com


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