Friday, December 21, 2012

75-year lease agreement to hasten Music Hall donations, restoration

The City of Cincinnati and the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) have reached an agreement on a rent-free, 75-year lease of the 134-year-old building, a deal that both groups hope will hasten its restoration.

The agreement ends what has been a six-year effort to move the restoration forward, most recently including the City's refusal of a MHRC proposal for a 99-year renewable lease and purchase option in June.

MHRC must now revisit its financing strategy and develop a construction timetable for the estimated $95 million project.

The current plans have been scaled back from a $165 million plan that included raising parts of the north and south lobbies, which would have subjected the Corbett Opera Center to demolition. Also gone from the plans are a $9 million office annex for the symphony, a restaurant and bar, and the acquisition of additional surface parking.

But the plans still include addressing deferred infrastructure issues such as the building's aging gallery and mechanical systems. Additional amenities, such as expanded restrooms, more comfortable seating, and better accessibility – including new elevators and escalators – will also be added.

Most notably, the bricked in windows on the Elm Street fa├žade will be opened up and the two-ton crystal chandelier in Springer Auditorium will remain.

"The historic character of the building will shine through, and Music Hall will continue to astonish people for generations to come, hosting great performances and a diverse array of community events in a revitalized Over-the-Rhine neighborhood," said a Wednesday media release from the Cincinnati Arts Association, which manages the building.

As part of the deal, the City will contribute $10 million for the work. The lease still must be approved by the City Planning Commission and City Council, which likely will occur next month.

"The City's commitment to this iconic landmark and support for the project is helping to ensure Music Hall's future, and the forging of this private-public partnership is a significant moment in the building's history," the media release said.

Once the funding is raised, work will take about 17 months to complete.

A National Historic Landmark, Music Hall is home to the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet, and the Cincinnati May Festival.

Previous reading on BC:
Music Hall lease proposal deemed 'one-sided', lacks support (6/25/12)
Music Hall exteriors and Stettinius Avenue in the snow (12/22/08)