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Opera House appeals to community for funds
NORWAY — The Norway Maine Opera House Corporation is looking for community support to raise nearly $300,000 for the renovation project currently underway.
NMOHC members hope to raise the funds by January 1.
According to NMOHC member Bruce Cook, the amount the group needs to raise is around $140,000 higher than anticipated.
He explains that the bids for renovation were higher than expected, but NMOHC was committed to completing the work properly.
"Rather than start skimping and cutting corners – not putting in, for example, energy-efficient windows – we decided to suck it up and do it right," Cook says.
The money the group needs to raise is only a portion of the $1.1 million the project is estimated to cost.
The majority of the funds are coming through a community development grant and a matching loan from Norway Savings Bank, as well as tax credits available for the historic building.
NMOHC members are relying on the community to come up with the required funding. They hope that other people are as invested in seeing the Opera House returned to its former glory as they are.
"We're hoping for community support," says NMOHC member Scott Berk. "No gift too large, no gift too small."
Support is already coming in, Cook says. One donor in particular has been sending a check for $50 to the group every month.
Returning the building to the center of business and cultural life in town is incredibly important, NMOHC members say, not only from a community perspective, but also from an economic one.
Berk, who owns Café Nomad on Main Street in Norway, says that as a business owner, the retail space offered by the Opera House renovation is incredibly important.
"Having our main building, this huge hole on the middle of Main Street for years ... hurts all the businesses on Main Street," Berk says.
The problem, Berk says, is that there just isn't adequate retail space for businesses on Main Street – with four more "grade A" spaces, it could really turn things around.
"It's good for businesses, it's good for neighborhoods, it's good for the community," Berk says.
"So the more we can get local community involved and feel like they were involved and part of the solution, that's a good thing."
NMOHC member Brenda Melhus hopes that people's memories of the Opera House's heyday might help spur a commitment to the project.
She says that people tell her how the building has influenced their lives – from receiving a high school diploma in a ceremony on the second level to going on a first date in the building's old movie theater.
She hopes those fond memories can be translated into excitement and energy to support the project.
Melhus is encouraging people with memories of the Opera House to share their stories with the NMOHC members and remind the community what the building was and can be again.
According to Cook, businesses have already approached property manager Tony Morra to lease space in the building.
Even with the spaces rented, the NMOHC is still on the hook for the rehabilitation costs, Cook explains.
If the group doesn't raise the money, it may need to take out a mortgage on the building and repay loans – putting more work, like fixing the back wall and renovating the second floor, further down the road.
The group plans to show its appreciation for those who donate $100 or more by engraving their names on a brass plaque to be displayed in the Opera House after the project is completed.
NMOHC members hope the community continues to show its support for the project – after all the hurdles the group has been through, it's ready to get this phase of the project finished once and for all.
Anyone interested in making a donation to NMOHC can do so at www.saveouroperahouse.org or by calling Bruce Cook at 890-7920.
To follow the progress of the current renovation, share your stories about the Opera House or get in touch with other supporters, people can check the group's facebook page.
REINFORCED — Workers take stock of some of the renovations completed in the Norway Opera House. Construction work has been going on in the building since mid-September. The Norway Opera House Corporation, the non-profit group behind the project, is looking for help from the community to raise $300,000 in the next two months.