Last February, Hamilton County commissioners approved a five-year lease to allow 3CDC
to spearhead the renovations to Over-the-Rhine
’s Memorial Hall
. The project is estimated to cost about $10 million, and will include cosmetic renovations to help expand programming. Funding for the renovations will come from historical and new market tax credits.
In 1992, Hamilton County (which owns Memorial Hall), private donors and the Cincinnati Preservation Society
funded a revitalization to repair the concert hall and add an elevator; in 2006, the Cincinnati Memorial Hall Society
was established to help support, revitalize and maintain the space, and has a lease with Hamilton County to preserve, manage and operate the hall.
The Society currently has 23 trustees, and was reorganized and expanded in mid-2012, and an executive director was hired to oversee the day-to-day activities at the Hall. In the past year, the Society has raised $75,000 for improvements such as repairing decorative areas and purchasing chairs, catering equipment and audio-visual equipment for the Hall.
The 600-seat performance space has an ornate arch, decorative molding on the walls and Tiffany lights. Renovations will include a new roof, new electric and heating, improved restrooms, expanded catering facilities, improved theatrical and production capabilities and air conditioning in the theater (the Hall’s three reception rooms are air-conditioned).
“Through the renovations and revitalization of Memorial Hall, we will stimulate the community through extraordinary performances,” says Teresa Summe Haas, Executive Director of the Memorial Hall Society. “The combined commitment by the city and citizens has revitalized OTR. Memorial Hall, combined with Music Hall
and the School for Creative and Performing Arts
, set the stage for a world-class Washington Park Arts District. Memorial Hall is excited to be part of the renewed focus celebrating Cincinnati’s arts and community.”
Memorial Hall was built in 1908 to honor the veterans of the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Veterans of the wars used the Hall as a meeting place and for various events; but in the 1950s, the last of the veterans of those wars died and Memorial Hall began to fall into disrepair.
In order to expand Memorial Hall’s offerings, the Society has obtained an alcohol permit for the building and compiled a list of preferred vendors for organizations that use the reception rooms or performance hall for meetings, events and weddings. The Society has been working on rebranding Memorial Hall, including a new logo, website and Facebook page.
“Memorial Hall’s mission can be summed up in three words: arts, culture and community,” says Bill Baumann, president of the Memorial Hall Society. There are two banners outside of Memorial Hall with its mission on them, announcing to the community what it’s there for.
In 2013, 70 different arts, civic and other organizations held more than 150 events at Memorial Hall—these numbers are up moer than 300 percent from 2012. In 2014, there are already 168 events, concerts, meetings and weddings booked, and this number is expected to grow, Baumann says.
“These numbers indicate the improvements being made to the Hall, the renovations to Washington Park
, other improvements to OTR and the parking garage under the park, which show signs that there is a need for a multi-dimensional performance hall and building like Memorial Hall,” he says.
Cincinnati firm John Senhauser Architects
and Westlake Reed Leskosky
of Cleveland have been selected to provide architectural and engineering services for the renovations.
The Society has put together its Signature Series
, which will feature, music, art and food. The first event is November 15 at 6:30 p.m.; tickets are $40 and can be purchased here
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter