(HUDSON, N.Y.) – With $7 million in hand, the Hudson Opera House is moving forward with its $8.5 million renovation, the largest and most significant phase of its preservation efforts, the centerpiece of which is the restoration of its upstairs performance hall. Renovation is expected to be completed in spring 2017, marked by the organization’s inaugural 2017-2018 season of programming in its newly restored performance hall.
When complete, the performance hall will be adapted for modern use, creating a unique, intimate, and flexible 300-seat theater to provide contemporary programming reflective of today’s audiences.
Interior goals for the Hudson Opera House reconstruction include rehabilitation of the performance hall, mezzanine, stage, and support spaces, including five dressing rooms, a lighting and sound booth, green room, laundry, and accessible restrooms. These renovations will restore the theater into a high quality, professional-grade working venue suitable for a diverse range of programming and public events. The exterior space will also be treated to an upgrade: exterior masonry and windows and doors will be restored, while a new roof, fire stairs and restored cornice have already been completed.
Steps are also being taken to modernize the building and ensure accessibility, safety, and security for employees and visitors. Work will include lead and asbestos abatement and new electrical, fire protection, and HVAC systems. A new elevator tower in the southeast corner of the building will provide access to the basement, main and auditorium levels of the building. For the first time in the building’s history, the performance hall will be accessible to all, including those who, because of age or disability, are unable to use the historic staircase.
At the same time, the character of the historical building will be retained. The current proscenium arch and raked wooden floor stage were late-19th century additions and will be preserved. The historic fabric will also be retained, and new elements will be sensitively incorporated to retain the overall historic character of the spaces.
An $8.5 million fundraising campaign will support the Next Stage Capital Project. To date, $7 million towards this goal has been secured with lead gifts from the board of directors; public support from Empire State Development, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, New York State Council on the Arts; and private funds from foundations and individuals, including major gifts from the Educational Foundation of America and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also provided investment through its Community Facilities program, secured with assistance from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and in partnership with Kinderhook Bank, which aims to improve rural community infrastructure and quality of life.
These funds will enable the performance hall to re-open in 2017 while the Hudson Opera House works to secure the final $1.5 million needed for additional fixtures and fittings, soft costs, and operating capacity.
Executive director Gary Schiro said, “The full-scale restoration of our facility will allow the Hudson Opera House to celebrate its historic legacy while offering an elevated range and level of programming that it cannot currently present. We look forward to reopening the space to artists and our public a year from now, when the Hudson Opera House will be transformed into a beacon for artistic discovery and exploration.”
“The Hudson Opera House is a historic gem, and I am pleased that major renovation and revitalization efforts are underway to bring the theater back to prominence,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I fought to secure federal support to help rehabilitate the Hudson Opera House because it is critical that we preserve this community landmark for generations of New Yorkers to come. The newly restored theater will provide a diverse array of arts and educational programming while attracting tourism to the region and supporting local jobs and businesses.”
“The Hudson Opera House, a storied symbol of Hudson’s colorful past, also stands as one of the brightest beacons in the region’s remarkable revival,” said Assemblywoman Didi Barrett. “I thank the State of New York for generous support of this important social, cultural and economic driver and congratulate the Hudson Opera House’s visionary and hardworking leadership team.”
“By renovating this historic theater, we are creating a center for celebrating the region’s legacy and culture, while supporting its future economic growth through the new businesses and visitors that will be drawn to the downtown area for generations to come,” added Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky.
The Hudson Opera House has assembled a project team ideally suited to completing the project to the highest possible standards:
Marilyn Kaplan, principal architect of Preservation Architecture in Albany, has been the lead architect on the project since 1993, guiding the Opera House through 12 capital projects to re-open the first floor and stabilize the building. A national building code expert, Kaplan has worked on dozens of preservation projects throughout the northeast, with a focus on historic museums, libraries, and structures owned by nonprofit organizations.
Consigli Construction, with local offices in Dutchess County and Albany, has been awarded the contract through a public bidding process. The family-owned firm has an annual turnover of $120 million, its own mill house, and specializes in historic restoration. Restoring the New York State Capital and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library are just a few of the many high-profile projects in Consigli’s portfolio.
Chris Buckley of Production & Performance Facility Consulting is providing design services for the performance and rehearsal facilities. He draws on 30 years of theatrical production and project management experience, including production management at BAM and Rosas Dance Company in Brussels, Project Manager for the restoration of the BAM Majestic Theater (renamed the BAM Harvey), and as Vice President of Construction at New 42nd Street, Inc.
Proper & O’Leary Engineering is the project’s structural and civil engineering firm, and specializes in historic preservation and public sector projects. IBC Engineering is the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineering firm, known for its collaborative approach to project design and development.
Landmark Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in existing historic and landmark buildings, will serve as the Opera House’s Owners Representatives. Led by Kimberly Konrad Alvarez and John D. Alvarez II, Landmark is a NYS certified woman-owned business enterprise with experience working with state agencies and private foundations on grant-funded projects.
About the Hudson Opera House
Built in 1855 as the City Hall for Hudson, N.Y., the Hudson Opera House contains New York State’s oldest surviving theater. From its founding until the building was abandoned in 1962, the theater provided a space for some of the most exciting cultural, social, and political events of the day. The great Hudson River School showed their paintings here. Bret Harte read his poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a talk titled “Social Aims,” and Susan B. Anthony visited twice, lecturing to abolish slavery and rallying the cry for women’s suffrage. In 1914, Teddy Roosevelt regaled a crowd with his adventures in Africa.
After sitting vacant for 30 years, a group of dedicated local volunteers banded together to return the building to community use as a vibrant multi-arts center for diverse audiences. Since re-opening in the 1990s, the Hudson Opera House has been at the center of Hudson’s recovery. Over $3 million has been invested to stabilize the building and re-open the first floor.
Today, the Hudson Opera House continues its historic legacy, promoting the arts and playing a pivotal role in the cultural and economic advancement of the region. It serves more than 50,000 individuals and families annually through performances, exhibits, talks, and free community programs like Winter Walk. The Hudson Opera House is an example of a historical landmark that celebrates the timeless spirit of the City of Hudson while serving as a vital resource for the cultural and economic quality of life in the region.