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Construction to start on Havre de Grace Opera House renovation; more funding needed

The Havre de Grace City Council has agreed to ask the state for $300,000 for the second phase of the city's Opera House renovation project, money which would be used to complete interior renovations.
The Havre de Grace City Council has agreed to ask the state for $300,000 for the second phase of the city's Opera House renovation project, money which would be used to complete interior renovations.(MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun)

The Havre de Grace City Council has agreed to ask the state for $300,000 for the second phase of the city's Opera House renovation project, which would cover the cost of completing interior renovations.

Director of Administration Patrick Sypolt said the city has contracted to renovate the first phase of the opera house, which includes exterior work and the atrium.

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The construction will run through much of 2016, after which Sypolt anticipates getting funding for the second phase.

He briefed Mayor Bill Martin and council members on the project during Monday's council meeting and received the go-ahead to ask for the additional money.

The opera house's foundation group has raised about two-thirds of the funding expected to be needed and the Lewis Contractors company is set to start work any day now, foundation chairman Bill Price said Wednesday.

The total cost of the project has been bumped up from $2.8 million to about $3.3 million, he said.

"We are waiting for the general contractor to actually begin work," he said. Lewis Contractors is also building the city's new library across the street.

"We are doing a little foot race that we hope will raise the rest of the money before they run out of work," he said. "It's going to be less expensive if it is a continuous build."

"I think you will see, by the completion of the first round, the atrium, and then a lot of the infrastructure needed to shore up the building," he explained.

The foundation hopes to continue attracting private funding. No other state funding has been requested since a $250,000 package that included a Department of Housing and Community Development grant and $50,000 in a bond bill was approved last year, Price said.

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The foundation also received a $250,000 state grant in 2013 and another $250,000 from the city the same year.

"We really haven't tapped into the private [donors] much," Price said, noting about $90,000 in private money has been collected.

The foundation has been selling naming rights to its 200 seats, but only about 32 have been sold so far, he said.

Nevertheless, Price was confident about the city's support of the project.

"Some people still seem to think this is some kind of pipe dream, but it's going to happen," he said. "There is a commitment on the part of the city and on the part of the new mayor and on the majority of the council members, if not all the council members."

Mayor Martin "is behind it 100 percent," Price said.

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