State grant approved for Havre de Grace opera house

Plans for a major upgrade to the Havre de Grace Opera House are moving forward with the help of a $250,000 grant awarded by the Maryland House of Delegates.

The funding was authorized by way of an approved House bill, passed by the General Assembly, that will allow $1.1 billion in state debt for various capital purchases. The financing for the opera house was sponsored by Speaker of the House Michael Busch.

The bill authorizes a grant equal to or less than $250,000 for the design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction and capital equipping of the opera house.

Another bill, House Bill 571, was supposed to authorize up to $1.2 million for Havre de Grace to use on development projects, but it did not get out of committee.

The $250,000 grant would go a significant way toward renovating the historic building, which dates to 1871 and which was the seat of city government until 1993.

The renovation project will include restoring and upgrading the second-floor theater and renovating the first floor to include a box office, additional rehearsal and meeting space, dressing rooms and handicap-accessible bathrooms.

It will also connect the opera house to the adjacent fire house building with a handicap-accessible atrium and lobby offering safety upgrades and an elevator to provide access to the second-floor banquet facility at the fire house.

The entire project would cost $2.6 million, with funding coming from a number of sources. The city has already invested $300,000 in architectural fees, inspections and building maintenance improvements since 2011.

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