Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Do You Want at the Emery?

I've been very excites about this year Music CEAs taking place at the historic Emery Theater (Get your tickets NOW!). Efforts are underway way by the Emery Center Corporation to restore the grand theater to the greatness and huge relevance it held for most of the 20th Century. For a taste, check out this photo gallery from CityBeat showing just a little of the storied past of this great venue. Estimates are that the restoration will take at least 3 million dollars to complete. See below for a press release on the efforts.

The key element I want to find out is what do you want to see take place at a restored Emery? Give me your ideas in comments. Here are some of mine:
  1. Where better to see the headliners for Midpoint?
  2. Music Now! needs a bigger venue!
  3. Why Can't the Oxford Film festival move again?
What else comes to mine? Post your thoughts and get your ticket to the CEAs today!

If you want to help out raising some of the money needed to make this happen, send me your contact information (email: cincyblog@aol.com) and I'll pass it along to Emery team and get your efforts moving in the right direction. If you have limited time, at least spread the word about this effort to bring more hands on culture to OTR and Downtown. This is a chance to have a world class venue be the home for great music, theatre, film and events that will augment the growing arts community in Cincinnati.

Here are the details on Saving the Emery from the ECC:
$3 Million Projected to Reopen the Emery Theatre

The board of the Emery Center Corporation (ECC) has been working on plans to reopen the Emery Theatre. After lying dormant for about a decade, this historic concert hall/auditorium will host 650 guests for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards on Sunday evening, November 23. The ECC hopes that this event will demonstrate the potential of the hall to fill a niche in Cincinnati’s varied array of performing arts facilities and that other events will follow.


A restored Emery Theatre is envisioned as a mid-sized performance venue and an educational, community-based arts facility with world-class acoustics. The concept is to operate the Emery as a presenting hall for performances aimed at a young urban audience. The Emery can accommodate local and touring musicians, choral groups, lectures, movies and multi-media presentations, festivals, corporate meetings and conventions.

Current Activities

In January 2008, the University of Cincinnati (UC) charged the ECC to identify a viable manager and program for the Emery Theatre by the end of this year. After several years of dormancy, the ECC’s board of trustees has been meeting regularly and working intensively on this challenge. Numerous professionals and volunteers have participated in preliminary construction work and planning.

  • Urban Sites carried out $15,000 of interior demolition and debris removal.
  • Over 100 Give Back Cincinnati volunteers participated in a major cleanup, painting and cleaning of the lobby and orchestra level.
  • GBBN Architects have produced a code analysis and scope of work to establish the minimum work required to reopen the hall.
  • Al Neyer, Inc., has prepared a cost estimate.
  • Property Advisors has produced a valuation study establishing the market value and equity in the building.
  • A new preliminary operating plan projects a $500,000 annual operating budget.

Phased Revitalization

The ECC believes the revival of the Emery Theatre can be accomplished in a two-phased restoration. The first phase could open the orchestra and first balcony (1100 seats total) by the end of 2011, in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the hall in January 2012. The second phase could open the second balcony for a total of 1600 seats at some future date.

Projected at just $3 million, Phase I could open the Emery’s doors at relatively low cost and capitalize on this currently underutilized resource. The viability of the project is enhanced by potential income from the apartments, either through rent or condominium sales, which could yield $1 to 2 million in equity toward the theatre’s renovation.


Completed in 1911, the Emery Theatre/former Ohio Mechanic’s Institute-College of Applied Science (OMI-CAS) Building has a distinguished heritage, having been endowed by philanthropist Mary Emery and designed by architects Samuel Hannaford & Sons. The Emery Theatre has the highest quality acoustics and was compared to Carnegie Hall by the renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski. This nearly flawless concert hall was the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1912 to 1936.

Many Broadway stars and world-renowned performing artists have appeared on the Emery stage, including Russian ballet dancers Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova, actresses Bette Davis and Katherine Cornell, and composers John Philip Sousa and George Gershwin, who played his famous "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra here shortly after premiering it at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Recent Redevelopment

The Emery Theatre/former OMI-CAS Building came under the ownership of the University of Cincinnati in 1969. When OMI-CAS moved to its new Edgecliff Campus in 1988, the building sat vacant, and the theatre was operated for a decade by the American Theatre Organ Society. The Emery Center Corporation (ECC) was created in 1988 to promote the restoration and sustainable operation of the Emery Theatre.

While restoration of the theatre was delayed, the rest of the complex was redeveloped in 1999-2001, with 59 units of market-rate housing, interior parking, and commercial office and retail space. The $9.7 million project included exterior renovation and interior stabilization of the theatre. The complex is leased long-term (40 + 40 years) to the Emery Center Apartments LP (ECALP), and the ECC holds a sublease for the theatre.


Cincinnati has pent-up demand for a mid-sized theater. The Emery will have 1600 seats, as compared with 3400 in Music Hall, 2700 in the Aronoff, 2400 at the Taft, and 900 at CCM’s Corbett Auditorium. Cincinnati needs a hall for mid-sized audiences to complement our other performing venues. Cincinnatians drive to other cities in our region such as Louisville, Columbus, Indianapolis, Lexington, and Dayton to enjoy entertainers who skip Cincinnati for lack of a suitable venue for their touring shows.

Key characteristics

* Proscenium: 54 feet wide, 45 feet high at the top of the arch
* Stage depth: 35 feet deep, could be expanded to 60 feet
* Stage loft: 72 feet high
* Wing space: 15 feet wide (both sides)
* Rigging: New counterweight system needed
* Gym: 54 X 80 feet (for rehearsals and events)

Open to the Public

The Emery is scheduled to be open to the public one night only this year. On November 23, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards will be held in the Emery and all bar proceeds will be given to Save the Emery. Tickets are required and can be purchased at cea.citybeat.com This event is happening with a temporary certificate of occupancy. Stop in to enjoy the award show and take a look around. Then buy a drink and tip heavily! There is more work to be done.

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